All My Plants Are Dying: Things I’m Sitting With By Way of Elaborate Metaphor

  1. Our Plants, Our Selves

I have a confession to make- I can’t seem to keep a plant alive. I’m envious of people like my mother, who can look at a plant and recognize its needs: too much water, too little, not enough sun. In my case, though, I think my plants die less of misread signs than of inconsistent attention. I’ll start with a consistent watering schedule, forget to water and then suddenly overwhelm my plant with water as if that’ll make up for it. Lately, it’s occurred to me that I mirror this behaviour elsewhere- this blog being a strong example, or writing in general; healthy eating and wellbeing.

This movement of starts and stops, deprivation and gluttony, is common in our society, mostly because it is beneficial to consumerism. If your plant dies, you buy another one; your fad diet fails so you try a new one. It is a system in love with its binaries, and its end results; the finish line, the final numbers. In contrast, the life of a plant moves differently. There is no final form that a plant takes on- even at the end of its own life, it can be a source of life for others.

How, then, do we begin to care for our selves, for our bodies and projects and friends, like we (try to) care for plants? How do we show up, continuously, without an end goal in mind, but merely checking in, every day? How do we learn to not only love the process of growth, of life, of creation but practice it continuously, infinitely?

2. Planting Seeds for Future Forests

This feels like a big year. It feels as if we are at some sort of precipice. The Black Lives Matter movement has reached incredible heights, and so many new people are showing up to unpack whiteness and do the anti-racist, liberation work. What some of us are just beginning to realize, though- and what those who have been doing this work know well- is that this is not (only) a battle, but a lifetime of care. Many of the seeds being planted today will not bear fruit for many years. Some will only become saplings by the time we are elders. Like the environmental justice movement, we must remove the self-interest and gratification from our work and think outside of ourselves (work that is especially important for those of us who are white and those who carry more privilege, and are more accustomed to entitlement). We will not follow capitalist farming practices, and allow the seed to become inert when the year is through/ we will not give up if the crop is not as successful as imagined or if very few break the ground. We will create space that is cyclical, that is self-sustaining- that, year after year, grows and flourishes.

There is a tree near my house that has grown so large that it has broken through the homeowner’s fence. In my mind, I see it like this- slow moving vines choking out statues, grass bursting through cracks in the concrete, decaying government buildings full of fungi.

3. People as Ecosystem

Images and videos demonstrating how Covid-19 spreads make me think of nothing more than airborne spores, or seeds. I feel like this pandemic, and indeed 2020 in general, have illustrated exactly how interconnected we all are as humans, and exactly how much some would prefer not to acknowledge this.

I am interested in this preference to think of oneself in terms of an entirely isolated system of being, when one could not even find food to eat without the aid of others. Certainly it can be frightening to finally acknowledge that as sharers-of-ecosystem, what you do does actually have an impact on others. North America especially prizes this idea of individualism- what I do is my problem, what you do is your problem.

Now, we have a remarkably heavy-handed exploration of what acknowledging the ecosystem and doing your part within said ecosystem can do by way of pandemic. It is less tangible, but you can also then imagine how your implicit and explicit biases can carry across worlds. Acknowledgment and amends for this can be shameful, embarrassing, and disheartening; but finding your roots and space within this ecosystem is incredibly liberating and allows for a wholly new understanding of love and community.

We are seeing, too, a world where smaller, deliberate ecosystems are being formed, and the possibilities that emerge to us when we move with what is natural. For me, these peeks at what we could create- communities of love and mutual aid, where everyone has something to offer and something to receive- carry me forward.

Related/ Recommended Reading

Mapping Our Roles in a Social Change Ecosystem from Deepa Iyer

Emergent Strategy and Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown

All about Love: New Visions by bell hooks

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

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