• Lucia Joyce

Plant Therapy


I'm crying again.


Tears have become as natural to me as thirst, as cravings for chocolate. Triggered often by nothing, it starts with a sneezy feeling in my cheekbones and crown, manifests as silent sobs, rolls out a couple of tears, then culminates in a sigh of relief. I give it a safe, quiet space and let it tumble out, sometimes laughing at how silly, yet necessary it feels.


Today, though, I am hysterical. Shaking and gasping in Shane's arms as if it's on me to process the weight of the world, and it feels like it is. Struck in the gut by a former trauma I rarely address any more, I am weeping like a child who couldn't stop if they tried. Shane takes it in stride, like everything else, listening and consoling and holding my exhausted frame.


I can't say for sure, but this particular emotional storm seems to arise out of too-little-sleep the previous night and too-much-to-do today. Certainly PMS is a possible factor. Probably therapy on this particular trigger is needed. In any case, this is not my usual two minutes of tearful release. It is a roll-call of all the ways the world seems hopelessly oppressive. The vague themes of my sobs seem to be toxic masculinity and the misunderstood women of my life. Still, Shane is listening, and agreeing, and speaking from a place of appreciation and love. How cathartic, to be accepted even in hysteria.


I emerge from my emotion-hole, shaken, around noon. I have editing and writing and endless planning to complete, but Shane thinks it's best if I stick to light, fun things. So I slap on a skirt and a high pony and accompany him, on a whim, to Home Depot instead. I proceed to spend 40 minutes and $200 in the garden department. A few new house plants, flowers for the so-far-neglected front beds, a pile of seed packets (herbs and veggies), several kitchen plant projects (oyster mushrooms, micro greens, window lavender), two hanging succulents for the porch, and a flowering bush that wouldn't stop surprise-tickling my calf, are all carefully lifted into my cart. I scope every aisle of the greenhouse, running my fingers gently over leaves and petals, talking to flowers and bees, plotting corners and hooks for my newest friends.

The garden rep is busy, but kind, and helps me pick the best fertilizer. My heart exhales with quiet gratitude for this place of open air greenery, and the means to blow a small fortune on things to care for. I need to care for something today - the mantra forms naturally in my mind. Of course. Gardening was one of the first reasons we moved to the house we're now in. But all we've done is harvest lemons from the tree in the backyard, and water the potted seedlings our gardener friends brought over as part of a housewarming gift. I only recently realized our tomato plant needs ample water, preferably in the morning--her leaves were crisping in the hundred degree heat.


I've been overwhelmed with all there is to do--film, dance, and writing projects all bleed together as the days of this quarantine summer pass with little regard for the way time once worked. Like everyone else I've talked to, I'm also a sensitive Sally and have to be mindful of my empathy and energy intake/expenditure while politics and human controversy appear to go off the rails. I took nearly 16 hours of writing class this past weekend and my head is filled with new deadlines, long reading lists, and the death-and-grief-defying stories of my writer's group. In short, Shane is right. My weekend was more like a double-Monday and today I should stick to light, fun things.


I choose plants.


Taking on the unique and demanding task of indoor and outdoor gardening instead of tackling any of my current projects seems counterproductive, but sometimes you just know when something is the right thing to do. I need something satisfying that isn't about money, that requires no marketing or judgment by an audience or panel of gatekeepers. I need to be outside, getting to know the soil and bugs and growth of our home. I need to care for things.


24 hours later, the front beds are finished, for now. I put in marigolds and planted sunflowers that will hopefully bloom in the fall. The micro greens and oyster mushrooms sprout in their respective window boxes. The seed starter pots for the outdoor vegetables and herbs will have to wait until tomorrow. As will the flowering bush, as I am out of mulch. The succulents look great on the porch. Our first real compost bed in the yard requires some decision making: in ground or container? Side of the house or behind the garage? Everything is underway but there is so much more to do... and surprisingly I do not feel overwhelmed. I feel sun kissed and happy to be learning so much. I feel grateful to be a steward of so much life. I feel at home with the spiders and dewy leaves. I feel... like my grandma is with me, flooding me with memories of how to do this or that. I remember the earthy smell of her own compost bed, near the fenced-off horse pasture. I remember picking peas and checking the carrots. I remember facing my city-kid fear of worms, and spiders, to be with her.


It's been 20 years or more since I walked through my grandma's garden--she moved with us to a house in town after suffering a stroke when I was 13 or 14. But the memories are so vivid and multi-sensory, sparked by the wet grass and dirt in my own California yard, decades later. I haven't pulled weeds since I was a kid but the skill comes back easily enough. I am scared to do it wrong but determined to learn everything I can, starting now--aided by the Ron Finley masterclass, Grandma's lessons, and a lot of resilient greenery (and many Google tabs). Most importantly, I feel like myself again, and I have the never ending task of caring for things when my heart needs it.


Plant therapy. I recommend it. Also regular therapy, which I am also investing in. But that's for another blog post.



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