I have a lot of friends. I speak to some of them every day. Others are like distant planets; we only collide occasionally.
The one thing I can say about all my friends is: they’re very good listeners. I feel lucky that way.
Late last autumn, one of my gardener friends appeared on my doorstep carrying a potted smidgen of foliage. “I brought you a marigold from my yard.”
I peered at the plant. “It doesn’t look like a marigold.”
“Critters ate all the flowers and most of the leaves, but it should be okay if you put it in a sunny window.”
“Why are you giving it to me? I’m not exactly a plant maven.”
“You once told me that marigolds are your favorite flowers.”
“Yeah.” The gardener peered at the plant. “You said they remind you of you.”
The gardener’s words shone a light through the mists of my memory. I vaguely recalled delivering an extemporaneous speech during a lawn party, something about gaudy and irreverent late-bloomers.
After the gardener departed, I placed the marigold in a sunny window next to my other two plants, a pony tail palm and a miniature evergreen tree. The palm and the evergreen are rescue plants, salvaged from my late mother’s nursing home when they’d ended their tenure as cheer-up gifts.
Although the marigold didn't die, it also didn’t grow or bloom. It just sat there for two months, looking sad and raggedy.
In the middle of January, feeling kind of sad and raggedy myself, I decided to project my feelings onto the plant and give both of us a pep talk. I strolled over to the sunny window and said to the marigold “Hey, wanta have lunch?” (Plants will talk to you if you close your ears and listen.)
"Sure," the marigold said.
I transported the plant to my kitchen island, where I’d prepared a small repast for the two of us: a solitary piece of chicken for me (I felt it would be disrespectful to eat a salad) and a pitcher of water for the marigold.
“So, what’s going on?” I said to the marigold.
While I munched on my lunch, the tragic little plant recited its tragic little tale. It turned out that the scrubby shrub felt intimidated by the lush green beauty of the other two plants.
“It's not fair to compare yourself to them,” I said. “They're hothouse plants. Hothouse plants are supposed to be beautiful: it's their job. Your job is to celebrate your wild nature."
The marigold leaned forward, listening.
"You've had the kind of life hothouse plants can only dream of. You grew up in a vibrant urban garden, while those poor things have never even been outdoors." I took a sip from the marigold's water pitcher. "You've slumbered under starry night skies and danced with woodchucks and rabbits. You’ve smooched fireflies at sunset and kissed dewdrops at dawn.” I stood up. "You're the hippest shrub in this entire loft, and everybody seems to know that except you." I smiled at the marigold. "Now... I'm going to put you back in the window, and I want to see you grow into the biggest, best marigold you can be.”
Within days, all hell broke loose. The marigold grew several inches taller and popped out so many flowers, I could almost see it blooming in front of me. I had to transplant it into a larger container, and now it’s towering over the rescue plants. If things keep up like this, I’m going to have to move to a larger apartment.
It just goes to show…everyone can use a little encouragement sometimes.