Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Plants are people too

When I worked with refugees, one of the toughest parts of my job was interviewing prospective clients. The purpose of these interviews was to assess the veracity of their claims and determine if the organization could assist them. So, on a weekly basis, I listened to stories of rape, torture, executions and other acts of horrendous cruelty.

The interviews were conducted in a small, plain room furnished with a round table, a few chairs, a bookshelf, and a large potted plant. The plant was not what you'd call robust. It was not on its deathbed, per se, but certainly it had seen better days. For the two years I worked there, even though it sat by the room's only window, it didn't grow an inch. It just kind of hung on, in a state of arrested scrawniness. I'd occasionally try to give it a boost with fertilizer or selective pruning, but nothing seemed to help. Looking back, the only reason we didn't get rid of it altogether was because we were too busy, and it was too big for anyone to want to deal with.

One day, a prospective client who later became a friend remarked on the health of the plant. "Day in and day out, this room is filled with terrible stories," he said after he'd finished relating his own. "Your plant takes in all this suffering. No wonder it looks like that."

I'd never considered this idea, but after he left I moved the plant out of the interview room. It went to the (windowless) mail room, run by our cheeky office manager who played salsa CDs all day, sang out loud, and always seemed to have something to smile about. The plant bounced back immediately. It even flowered. We never knew it was a flowering plant.

I was thinking of this story over the weekend as I planted vegetable seeds. I bought a tool that allows you to turn newspaper strips into biodegradable seedling cups. There was a long story about Muqtada Al-Sadr in an old issue of the Independent which I didn't notice until his face and automatic weaponry were visible on about a dozen of the seedling cups. I pointed this out to Scott and he refused to plant his peas and carrots in them because of the "negative energy" they'd give his seedlings. I can't blame him.

However, on a positive note, re-used egg cartons seem to give off great vibes, evidenced by one of my first tomato seedlings which just popped up this morning:

No comments: