A few weeks ago I came across a perfect meme for me, which I promptly shared with my partner:

‘Husband: – But why do you buy plants if you kill them? Wife: -Just to remind you of what I’m capable of-’

I found this very amusing and also fitting given my constant struggle with the so-called green thumb; I actually bring home herbs from my weekly shopping spree and despite my best efforts, their life expectancy is reduced to the supermarket-homeward journey. At best, they survive the weekend.

Circumstances have it that I now find myself supporting my dad in the care of his vegetable garden and his garden. And yes: I have seen oleanders wither away out of self-preservation instincts as soon as they learnt the news, courgettes bury themselves and strawberries run away and throw themselves into the neighbours’ fruit salads.

Circumstances have given me a unique opportunity. I am learning so much from the earth, from plants. So much.

The earth: dry, cracked, arid in appearance. You turn it over by hoeing it, you dig it, you break it, you turn it over again and suddenly it is ready to host a life. And there it is life, welcome, embrace. A trickle of water and it is no longer what it was before. Have you ever tried crumbling lumps of earth? Have you ever tried crumbling it with your bare hands? As if life were flowing through your hands. The resilience of the earth is incredible. A given for those who work it every day, a novelty for those who, like me, live in a rural reality, but at the same time far from that world.

We are children of a power cable. We do not move unless we are sure that the batteries of all our ‘devices’ are charged or rechargeable. Without a navigator we don’t know how to move or we get lost. Without social media we are lost, fish out of water. If we don’t find immediate answers, we go haywire. That’s us, hic et nunc, all and sundry.

While the earth and the plants teach us that it takes time. Time to ripen, time to harvest. A time marked out, a time made of patience, sun, warmth and nourishment, not of electric charge.

In my parents’ garden there are two black cherry trees. Loads of fruit, still behind in ripening, but not too far behind. A branch of one of them snapped, due to too much weight and the winds of the last few days. I found myself cutting off the compromised branches, picking the ripest fruit, all at the mercy of mosquitoes and insects that are still feasting on the lavish meal.

I found myself pruning branches feeling almost guilty that I had to do it. Guilt assuaged by the knowledge that they would later grow back stronger and more lush. This is another characteristic that surprises and fascinates me about nature in general and plants in particular: they often have to give up a part of themselves in order to grow more luxuriant and find new sap. Cutting, shortening, pruning.

It is often difficult for us humans to understand, it seems almost contronatural, but it is so natural in reality!

Now, for the sake of the record, I would like to point out that my dad’s vegetable garden and garden plants are all doing well, we have a dozen jars of jam on hand, courgettes and basil growing in the garden. Everything is under control.

And I have gained a new awareness, I have found a refuge, an excuse to bring me back down to earth, to give me concreteness. Together with me, my son, who in his own way helped me hoe, transplant, pit. Priceless. That’s what this is: priceless. In short, one of my remedies, as the Black Crowes sing.

One thought on “Green Revival: My Journey from Black Thumb to Green Thumb”

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