For a couple of months now, I’ve been looking to buy myself something, just to spruce things up. I’ve looked at cameras – too expensive. Fitness equipment – waste of money. Air purifier – open the windows. Lego – sold out. Every idea I’ve had hasn’t been good enough. Until this morning, when I saw an automated indoor garden.
My thumbs are usually stained with ink. They’re not green. I have tried, several times, to grow something that will lead to a healthy harvest. I’ve met with some success but nothing worth mentioning, except for the purposes of this story. Last year, I got a handful of strawberries and enough basil for a couple of meals. In previous years, I’ve attempted to sustain bamboo plants (algae in the pot), Japanese peace lilies (poor lighting), and various herbs, like oregano (didn’t sprout) and parsley (burnt in the sun). Traditionally, I’ve done well with potato sprouts simply through negligence.
When I saw that this indoor garden was on sale, I felt the urge to buy it. I haven’t had the urge to buy anything in quite a while. Either I didn’t want it because it would be work to take care of, it was just going to end up sitting in a corner, or, as interesting as it may be, I just couldn’t think of any use for it. Ennui had pervaded my consumerist compulsions; I didn’t want anything because I couldn’t care about anything.
At a time when it feels like too much is happening while there’s nothing going on, it’s hard to feel motivated to act with purpose, to care about whatever else is happening in the world. My everyday environment has become a space that I’ve tended to and manicured, a dramatic shift from the buzzing, hectic atmosphere of big city, downtown living. The predictability of life during lockdown has led to indifference.
Watching a plant grow rejuvenates a sense that the everyday cycle of things will lead to progress. A plant’s daily life is, to my eyes, incredibly dull: soak up water, sunbathe, push out a little bit of leaf. Repeat. But, through this repetition, this endless task, something of beauty and purpose grows. We marvel at the colours, patterns, smells, and flavours of a life form stuck in a Sisyphean cycle.
We bring the fruits of plants’ labour into our homes and ingest them into our bodies. We use plants to send our condolences, ask for forgiveness, or profess our love. We use them to build and decorate our environments. We seek the comfort of their shade. We care about plants because we care about ourselves. Without their mundane, routine existence, we couldn’t live our distracted and amusing lives.
During a time when we’re living lives that sometimes feel as boring as that of a plant, it’s good to be reminded that we’re still able to grow.