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Overwintering Your Heart

24 Dec

IMG_1556All summer long, I watched my fuchsia plant react to sunlight and heat the way I do, shriveling up and running for the shade. Except the poor fuchsia couldn’t run. It doesn’t “have agency,” to put it the way I heard someone on the radio describe the imbuing of inanimate objects or ideas with motility.

There wasn’t much I could do for the fuchsia’s placement, given the limitations of my south-facing, 50-square-foot (extremely wobbly) deck. But because I was working at home this summer, I provided the fuchsia with agency. I went outside several times a day and picked up its planter and moved it to the rotating pockets of shade cast by the slotted railing throughout the day. It wasn’t enough, though, because it was just too hot for the poor thing. (Next year I will finally get a canvas sail shade!)

So my fuchsia went dormant. Summer dormant. And when the autumn came, I repotted it with a plan to bring it indoors for overwintering in my building’s basement. Everyone online says fuchsia’s have to be the basement, because the house is too warm to let the plant know it’s winter. But honestly, I hate the idea of putting the plant in this building’s particularly grim basement, so I put off the move until the first frost.

…Which never, never came in this El Niño winter. It’s 70 degrees Fahrenheit outside right now. So, since September the fuchsia has remained where I left it outside. I peeked at it every morning, just to see how it was doing, wondering how dormant versus dead it was. Then, a few weeks ago, right around the time my Christmas cactus was in full, vibrant bloom indoors, I noticed bright, new pink bulbs forming at the end of the fuchsia’s healthiest branch. It was loving life, getting ready to bloom again.

I know I should be horrified, I know I should feel bad that the plant is confused in our weird climate pattern. But I am so happy to see that it’s living, and it actually obviously just needed me to leave it alone for a while cooler temperatures so it would recuperate.

Meanwhile, the plants I brought in for the winter, my kitchen herbs, have died. I researched this move, too, but fearing a sudden drop in temperature during a two-week trip abroad that I was taking in November, I skipped the step of repotting outdoors and letting the plants adjust to the new confines outside before dragging them inside. Well, that was a mistake.

And this mistake was something I was lamenting this morning while I did yoga in the presence of a withering rosemary plant on the window sill. I’d moved it inside, then closer to the heater when the window got drafty and cold, then again closer to the window for more sunlight when it was warmer, trying to help it weather the ups and downs of temperature fluctuations, and yet there it was, regretfully having to make its exit because it preferred to roam free outdoors. The soil was wrong, the pot was wrong, the depth was wrong, the poor plant, which never really got established this summer outdoors, was now overwatered, over-coddled and overcome.

So I googled “saving a rosemary plant brought indoors for overwintering” and found a helpful website that basically told me I did it all wrong (but in a very polite fashion), and I frowned. To lose a plant life is not something that happens often in this apartment. I am the plant rescuer! I am a hero! How could I accept this defeat?

Then I saw a helpful and very relevant quote in a column next to the overwintering article:

A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.
—May Sarton

And I exhaled. Okay. Yeahhh… even though a plant loss feels far more severe than discovering that a skirt no longer fits (even immobile, plants are alive, of course), I guess it’s something that happens, even to the best gardener.

I was sort of not really accepting this truth, promising myself and the universe that I’d have all the right overwintering materials and practices in place next year (this is only my second year of having a real garden), when some more fortuitous words leapt into my frame of vision.

It was my new mantra, one I’ve written about on this site previously, but not one I was ready to actually live out until my return from Spain and France a month ago:

“Stop leaving, and you will arrive. Stop searching, and you will see. Stop running away, and you will be found.” 
—Lao Tzu

I moved the plants around frantically, just like I move myself around frantically, but they only really flourished when I could let them rest in one place. Given the right conditions and a little time to take root, plants are pretty resilient.

Already, only one month into my new practice of not flying away from New York the minute I get antsy or a little to close to getting what I want at work, I can tell that I’m getting stronger, and new work ideas are arriving. If I want all my big career moves to happen, I have to stop moving. If I want to enjoy all that I have, I need to stop looking elsewhere. And if I want to be discovered as the whole person that I can be when I just sit still and let myself be whole, then I need to stop running to the airport. Constantly. Although I’ll definitely enjoy my Delta Gold status next year!

 

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