New Leaves

Remember the old saying about turning over a new leaf? It took me ages, and I mean ages! to figure this saying out, until I began taking care of my own plants. The magic of watching something come to life after being buried in the soil, or a tiny new bud unfurling after the branch has been dormant for a long time, or even watching something bloom is priceless. There is a joy in planting that is so rewarding, its equivalent in the human world can only be equated with teaching or parenting. Nature and nurture go hand-in-hand, there is no denying that. Neglect and withdrawal from the essential elements for survival have adverse affects, and often lead to irreversible damage.

I don’t know about you, but my plants have always had a direct line to my emotions. If I am at peace, my plants thrive and bloom. If something is wrong in my life, my plants have always had an uncanny way of reflecting this and making a statement. I really can’t describe it, much less explain it, but I seem to always bee connected to one particular plant in particular, as if we are intrinsically bound to one another. In Berlin it was my elephant ear plant Olaf, and later on one of my orchids. Here in Lisbon, it is my little Happiness Tree (Arvore de Felecidade (Polyscia), that I bought the first week I arrived. Together with my peace lily, these two have been my faithful companions moving from place to place, room to room. They never really complained, except in May when I was assigned to the little dark room in the flat, where almost no sunlight reached them. I placed the two plants outside on the ledge, hoping fresh air and what little daylight came through the opening between the buildings would do them good. That was also the height of my stress levels at work, and my plants reflected it. Much to my horror, my peace lily turned yellow, and lost several leaves, and my happiness tree shed all its leaves!

I never gave up hope though, and continued to water them, playing music whenever I was home, and told them about my day. Then we were transferred back to the bright room where we are now, and both plants were placed in their old familiar places. Lo and behold, three days after moving back in, I noticed a brand new shoot on my little tree! What joy! June is about to end, and with it I celebrate four full months in Portugal. I am full of gratitude and peace, and my faithful companion celebrates life with me:

What a difference a month makes, as well as light and peace. I forgot to photograph the peace lily, but suffice it to say that it is thriving again, so much so that I was able to dettach the first offsprings! And my plant buddy VK presented me with a little Chinese money plant (more commonly known as the pancake plant), the exact replica of the one I left in Berlin. As soon as I get settled in a permanent place I have great plans to resume my indulgence in flowering plants and a vegetable garden! But for now, my soul plants are manifesting my new beginnings, emergence from the dry spell and tough times. MJS and SKB, this one is for you!

I can’t help but think of my mother and grandmother when I write about plants emotionally interconnected with human psyche. My grandmother always had orchids in her garden and at some point, when her health was failing and she came to live with us, my parents summarily decided to bring some of her orchids along as well, without really consulting my grandmother in the process. They just assumed she would not mind the relocation. Wrong! For as long as those tree orchids were in my mother’s garden they never bloomed. A friend told them it was because the plants were resentful towards my mother, having taken them without permission, to which my mother scoffed and snorted. She had no patience for superstitions and old wives’ tales. But when we moved to Manila in 2006, the first plants she brought to our new home were the infamous tree orchids. Maybe they will be happier with you she sighed, since they are being given in good faith and with love. Within a month the plants sprouted flowering branches and for the four years we lived in that house, they never stopped flowering! Go figure.

So yes, I have turned over a new leaf, several in fact, and this has never been clearer than the last ten days. Summer is here, and so is my new leaf on life.

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