The houseplants in the upstairs hermitage needed watering. There aren’t as many as there used to be. As I now spend more time indoors as a writer, rather than outdoors as I once did being a gardener, I wanted sunlight streaming through the windows. The numerous houseplants I once had hoarded the light, so I gave the largest plants away.
I’ve written before of my love of the Crab Cactus, Schlumbergera, of which I have three—oh, and a start of a forth from a branch that snapped off. There is also the white orchid and honeysuckle, and by the north window in the oratory two African violets.
Earlier this winter the violets nearly died from lack of water. For the first few weeks when the furnace was running, I forgot to check them sooner—smaller pots dry quicker—and they dried back hard. It doesn’t take long to damage a plant!
Quite a while ago I read the story of a woman who had a male friend who attended AA meetings with her. The woman, who was moving out of the area, had met him for lunch and during their conversation asked how he was managing being alone. He shared with her the advice he’d received from his therapist, who had given him a concrete marker of when he could begin dating. It was, her friend believed, an easily attainable goal: keep houseplants alive for one year, and if he did, then get a pet. If he could keep both plants and pet healthy and happy for the following year dating could start.
It was nearing the end of that time when she unexpectedly saw her friend again. After their excited greetings, she asked if he was dating. He began to tear up and leaning in for a hug told her, “No, the damn plants keep dying.”
Yes, yes, I can almost hear some of you yelping about having a black thumb. But the story is a good lesson about attentiveness that is not centered on one’s self.
First you must want to spend a little time and learn what it takes to care for something—like a specific houseplant. Does it need bright, indirect, or low light? What is the temperature and humidity in your home, and is it suited to that plant? Watering needs vary depending on plant species, its size, and the previous two points. Once you learn these things, you need to be willing to invest that knowledge in the object and be attentive to it—plant, pet, or person.
When I consider friends who have taken on the role of a catechist, well, most anyone grounded in faith, I see this playing out. They’ve nurtured their own seeds of faith, having investing time to learn about our religion. After that they then could be attentive to the developing faith of others.
Neglect the truth of what is needed for proper development, being too busy to be attentive, and damage takes place, stunting growth.
Moving on to water the remaining plants, I step past my old dog, Lilly, sleeping in her bed, and walk carefully to the next room with the an elderly kitty rubbing against my leg. I have no desire to date, but if I did, I might be about there.
(Image of violet flowers by Petr Baumann, courtesy shutterstock.com.)
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