My little cactus

I love my little cactus. I got him (him? I suppose so) about half a year ago, and the little guy’s going strong. He’s been through a lot, like the time I left him in my dorm over winter break, or the time I whacked him off the shelf and the dirt went everywhere.

Sometimes I wonder what it would be like, to be a plant. Can trees feel the wind in their leaves? Do cacti feel safe, hidden behind their spikes? Does my little bamboo plant feel lucky, or does it feel just constant growing pains?

For millennia people have used earth, water, air, and fire to categorize personalities. You can see this in…well, a lot of things. Harry Potter houses, for instance. Zodiac signs each align with one of the elements.

I’ve always wondered…why not plants?

An “ivy” personality is far different than an “elm tree” personality. Seaweed, cactus, basil, lilac, lettuce…or just “plant,” I suppose.

It depends on whether you think there are only a handful of different personalities, or an infinite amount. Sure, you can categorize people all sorts of ways, but none seem to quite be accurate…

Well, anyhow, what I’m trying to get at is: what plant are you? Not in a silly, ice-breakery sort of way, but which do you most identify with? The endurance and safety of a cactus? The bamboo, which grows quickly and with abandon? The strong oak tree? The weeping willow? Delicate lily pads? Expansive grasses? Nuanced herbs, like oregano or thyme? The beauty and complexity of a flower? Resourceful vegetables? Crawling vines? Clover, peeking up in sunny fields?

It’s more fun than the four elements, because there are far more possibilities, and have far more implications. And once you pick one for its positive attributes, you can look deeper and see the more telling traits…the way the cactus shields itself from the outside world, for example, or how the bamboo grows so fast it doesn’t take the time to enjoy where he is, or how the oak is so strong and steady that when it does fall it takes other trees down with it in a huge, crashing disaster.

It’s a tool to help us look deeper at ourselves. And even if it seems silly, give it a try. You might be surprised at what you find.

I think I’m a lily pad. Perhaps with a flower, now and then.

Something about September

When in a city, it’s easy to feel like you live in a Lego set. Everything is hard lines and rigid angles. Even though people in suburbs spend about just as little, if not less, time outside as city folk do, they still get to see the trees, hear the wind outside their windows.

In the city, we wade in a sea of white noise, our eyes just peering over fog and static. We avoid the other heads popping above the sea of stimulation and rush, necks bowed, to our destination.

I always feel the urge to sit in the park. I rarely sat outside when I lived in a suburb. I think it’s just that here my window faces a brick wall and an air conditioning vent and there my window faced a forest. I saw birds in their nests under my porch and worms fell from my tree and onto my car in the morning. Fog coated the road on a cold night, the kind of whispy fog that looked like trapped smoke. Frogs belched, squirrels and woodpeckers clutched to the trees, spiders spun masterpieces on the windowframes.

Here, we see rats and roaches, pigeons and mosquitoes. The flowers seem too bright to be real and the people seem too real to be bright. Here, we lose our connections to nature and therefore to ourselves.

I keep a bamboo plant on my windowsill. I touch its leaves when I feel sucked dry of my humanness.

It’s something about September. It’s still warm enough to wear one light layer of cotton, but not for long. I remember the city in the winter. I remember the walls of grey and ceilings of white, the sludge-lined sidewalks and frozen toes in boots not made for such abuse. I feel I should suck in all the summer left in the city and keep it warm in my bones, radiating through me until next April when I can shed my winter coat.