I think what I love best about the garden is its life force. It grows and creates and inspires. It invites the world in. Or out. It definitely invites me outside and into the elements. Flowers that give me an instant migraine indoors will delight me with only a hint of fragrance on the breeze out in the open. The sun sporting its various cloud outfits lend different light to everything around. Sparkle and fade. The birds that share the garden lend their music to the air and seem to follow the conducting tree branches. I love the outdoor garden and all its elements. Rain or wind or shine, it’s love.
(Recent pot work below)
Indoor gardens are different. I’ve never been very good with houseplants. I once killed a bamboo plant at work. Orchids commit suicide in my presence (though I have been redeeming myself as of late). Plants that survive me do not survive my cat, Odin. Christmas cactus? Bye-bye flowers. Hello teeth marks! Flowers seem to offend my kitty. I have one air plant alive in my home. A sole survivor. It lives in an enclosed mini green house. Safe from my cat’s sharp clutches.
So indoor plants and I have generally not got on well. They did saved my life once though.
I was renting a small apartment in Everett, Washington about 20 years ago. It was the first place I lived in all on my own. I was working at the Everett Boeing plant at the time and the location was convenient. I was also a new 21 year old and working swing shift in the factory. I distributed chemicals to the mechanics building the planes. It is still one of the most interesting jobs I have ever had. I met a lot of people there. It takes a lot of chemicals to build a plane and a lot of mechanics to do the building after all.
One I almost married and one I almost met death with. The former I can still call friend and I am grateful for that. The latter had beautiful blue eyes that haunt me still.
It was a time in my life where I had taken a pause in my college journey. I was burned out from working full-time and attending full-time classes. I wanted a little piece of youth for myself I guess and I had a job that payed the bills and left me with a bit left over that I should have saved, but instead went out with my buddies for drinks. Often. When you’re young and get off work an hour before midnight, it’s just way too tempting to wind down with friends. Happy hour becomes 11:30 p.m. to 2 a.m some nights. When it became more nights than not, I decided I needed a break.
So when Paul, with his beautiful blue eyes, stopped by to invite me out, I had a hard time telling him no. I can picture him now. Clearly. Leaning over my counter. He was nice and it was a nice group of friends going out. I was a baby at Boeing. So was he. Our young group wasn’t very big and I did want to go and hang out with everyone. But I had gone out the previous 5 nights. I needed a break. I just did and I got stubborn about it. I didn’t advocate for myself much in those days and it was sure tempting to join, but I just couldn’t. I can’t say why, but I was determined to repot those damn plants. It was my mission that night.
(Summer pot below)
Those blue eyes could sure cut you when you disappointed them though. I went directly home that night. Well…I might have stopped at Fred Meyer for potting soil first. I was at least going to do the thing that was my excuse for not going out.
My friends were out having fun and I was home alone in my kitchen spreading earth on my hand-me-down kitchen table. I had plants that needed repotting. One might have been a dracaena plant, but I’m not positive. All I know is that it was a couple of plants. Maybe one my mother had given me when I first moved out and lived in the U-district? I probably had already killed that one. It was so long ago, I can’t be sure. I just know I potted plants and more than one. And I made a mess and had a tiny bit of FOMO (fear of missing out) knowing that my friends were out having fun without me. But I also felt tired and content with earth under my fingernails.
I remember that night very well. I do not remember the exact plants, but I can picture my soil strewn table and the small balcony across from it. And I remember the next day, but only in a hazy sort of way.
I went into work at 2:30 p.m. as was my normal swing shift start time. I can’t remember what time I woke that day but my guess would be around 10 a.m. I was a night owl in those days. I drove to work and played the car stalking game people play in mall parking lots during the holidays. Only that was every day at Everett Boeing. I have no idea how I ever remembered where I parked in those days. I can’t count how many times I had lost my car in the Lowe’s parking lot when I had a house that called for those frequent trips. My memory was good back in my Boeing days. Or perhaps it was just that I had far less life experience to file away in my head that long ago.
Memory. How strange is it that I can forget what I had for lunch just today, but I can remember a young man’s face as if it were minutes ago? Even after 20 years have passed. I remember badging in at work and starting my day. The day after I repotted my plants. The day after my friends thought I was lame for going home instead of joining them. It was also the day I realized people would have been sad had I gone out and never come back again.
All day, people came to my “crib,” as they were called. Same as any other day. They needed chemicals to do their jobs and I was their dealer (helper). They saw me and said things like, “Thank God you’re alive,” and “Oh My God, we thought you were dead.”
I was confused at first. Of course I was alive. I was in my chem crib scanning badges and issuing various chemicals with my poster of Neuschwanstein Castle on the wall behind me. That castle is still on my bucket list too. It was just like any other day. Until it wasn’t. I was alive and my friend with the beautiful blue eyes was dead. My other friend was in Harborview. Anyone from the Seattle area knows that Harborview means dire circumstances. It means it’s the best place for you if you are courting death. He lived, but it was a hard road for him. I wonder where he is now.
Two others were dead. But not me. I was potting plants.
People thought the girl in the front seat of the 4Runner was me. Seatbelts are good until they almost cut you in half I was told. I prefer other people to drive. This was long before the days of Uber and while I was still in my stupid, invincibility stage of life. I would have gladly accepted a ride. My reality crashed all around me that day. I would have taken a ride with those beautiful blue eyes the night before. I know I would have. I would have never known people would have missed me. I would have just been gone.
I went to the funeral and saw his lifeless face. He looked like marble. He was still beautiful. Like a Twilight vampire if I had to compare him now. Guns N Roses version of Knockin’ on Heavens Door played. To this day, I think of him whenever I hear it and I think of that day. And that day makes me think of that one night. And I don’t remember the lifeless face that much now. I remember clearly that tall, thin frame leaning over my counter with those beautiful blue eyes boring into me. Trying to twist my arm to join him and his friends. His disappointed gaze and me shrugging it off and conveying my duty (or excuse) to my house plants.
Me with my hands dirty with earth.
Earth that saved my life but ended up covering his.
Even when I had a house and my own garden, I still had pots. Outside, but still pots.
I potted plants. And I think I always will.