When science, reality, magic and tragedy mix into a wonderful and awful thing called life.
Geraniums were the flowers that initially caught my attention.
“If you cut that stem off, you can plant it and then it will grow into another plant.”
I remember these words from my grandma when I was telling her how much I liked them. I was immediately intrigued by the divinity that seemed to flood through stems, leaves and petals. How could something grow from a stick? The only answer my 11-year old brain could muster was a fantastical mix between science and pure magic.
My grandma was a bit of a gardener for a time, although she now lives in Arizona and I don’t think she’s put much effort into trying to grow anything in that harsh environment. When she lived in California, she grew a plethora of plants: vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers. Most of all she grew roses, fitting considering her maiden name is Rosepiler. Some of her roses even ended up winning awards at the San Diego County Fair.
My grandma has a touch in the garden. She’s a sorceress, manipulating vines, creating magic potions to pour into soil, rescuing leaves from the dangerous fangs of caterpillars and the deadly beaks of birds. She can raise up and tear down life without its consent. To the garden, she is a force to fear and simultaneously its source of sustenance. Without her, the roses would wither away, diseases would overcome the land, leaves would disintegrate under the rule of the aphid.
However, my grandmother also knew that mother nature isn’t purely villainous. Without her, there would be no roses, no tomatoes, no trees, shrubs, grass or flowers. We need nature, we work with it to find the beauty in tragedy. When one plant dies it sinks into the earth; a sacrifice to bring life to future generations. The aphids who feed off of the leaves are later consumed by larger creatures who will eventually sink into the ground. Gardeners work with the tragedy of existence, not against it.
So at the age of 11, I had to try my hand at working miracles. I listened to my grandma; I cut off a few pieces of this geranium plant and stuck them in the dirt. I forgot about them. A couple of months later, I was walking past the location where I had placed these cuttings, and was surprised to find 3 new plants. I did it — I had created life with my own hands.
At 18, I found myself drowning in the loneliness and pointlessness that seemed to accompany my freshman year in university. I was beginning to experience the harsh realities of life. These were realities that I had always known would exist, but I wasn’t expecting magic to fade as life sank in.
I could hardly carry the dullness of life with me. I tried to escape. One week I’d be burying myself in school work. The next I’d be skipping classes and assignments opting to nap instead. Then the following week I’d watch TV for hours straight (and I mean hours).
At some point my failing grades caught up to me. I had to refocus. So back to my studies I went. I enjoyed them at least, I truly did. But some of my courses required me to think deeply on ethics, morals, meaning, and the big, real, painful picture of life. I loved it, but was squashed by the burden of existence. There were no garden fairies who could save me from everything.
I missed magic.
One day I found myself at Lowe’s. I was looking for boxes, and came across their indoor plants. I remembered, I liked those little garden miracles. So, I grabbed a flower, an African violet to be exact, and a pot.
My African violet lived to be almost a year old. It finally died, and admittedly I was crushed. I didn’t have the powers that I assumed I had.
I tried again. I picked up a fern from Lowe’s. This time I’d focus more. I’d do better. I wouldn’t allow life to take it’s precious existence away too early. I wanted that fern to sparkle with that mysterious force that my grandmother’s garden did.
While I’ll admit that the fern has seen some tough times, it is still alive today. (Although he has just been freshly trimmed in preparation for a new growing season.) He resides peacefully in my bathroom where the atmosphere is perfectly humid and the temperature is warm. My fern greets me with a “good morning” and “good night” on a daily basis. Who knew plants could talk? I’m telling you, it’s magic. It’s science, beautiful, wonderful, fantastical science. But it’s also magic.
Whilst I am certainly no sorceress, I’ve learned to harness some of the magic I may have. I’ve even had to learn new spells I didn’t have along the way. I have begun to collect new pots, potions and brews. I currently have a modest collection of 15 indoor plants and even a few outdoor ones. My fantastic leafy little friends.
Today I make an effort to dive deep into life. I do the mundane and necessary things. I ponder upon the deep and painful realities of existence, and I take a bit of time to play with magic.