The Tao of Plants
In a page on the care of plants that I wrote many years ago, I made this statement -
"Anyone who cannot keep a plant alive,
cannot keep a relationship alive."
This was not addressed to those people who occasionally let a plant die, but to those people who almost proudly proclaim -
"Oh, I just can't keep a plant alive. I kill plants."
We all know people like that. They are not bad people - just as there are cat-people and not-cat-people, and dog-people and not-dog-people, some folks are just not-plant-people. And, sometimes it is difficult for a cat person to understand a dog person, and vice versa. And, often is difficult for both cat-people and dog-people to understand plant-people.
All pets are living things. I think of plants as little green pets who don't move around much.
Most pets have various ways to let you know what they need and if there is something wrong. I put dogs at the top of the list because they are in your face all the time... and they bark! I put cats one step down because they can be stand-offish, and they don't bark (but may make other sounds, or poop on the carpet.) One step below cats are birds. And one step below birds are reptiles - snakes and lizards. And, at the bottom of the heap when it comes to telling you what they need and when there is a problem for them, are plants.
Plants live life in very slow time. About the only way a plant has to tell you that it is happy or unhappy is to thrive or not to thrive.
If a plant is not thriving, it is not happy.
So, "people who kill plants" are the ones who see them not thriving, and don't do anything to address it.
Now, again, these are not bad people. The vast majority of them simply do not know what to do, or how to find out what to do.
And, sadly, the same thing is often true of relationships.
And, someone who sees a relationship not thriving, and for whatever reason does not do anything about it, is a very difficult person to have a successful relationship with.
I recently saw a TEDx talk on youtube titled "What I learned from my husband's suicide." It was a very sad story, and my heart goes out to her. There is no way I would ever do anything to worsen her grief over her loss. However, there was one thing which stuck out to me - she never saw it coming.
It is difficult for me to imagine that someone can live with someone who is getting ready to commit suicide, and not pick up on the fact that person is not thriving.
And, I believe that this is what plants can teach us about life - to observe, to understand, and to act.
An indoor plant is the ultimate in dependency. It totally depends on us for everything it takes to keep it alive, and thriving. To keep a plant alive one must put aside self-centeredness and really see what is going on with the plant, and do what it takes to understand what it needs.
There are many situations in life where we are dealing with a living thing who is struggling and for any number of reasons cannot say "I need something from you, and this is exactly what I need." When that living thing is a person, they may not know what they need, and even if the do they do not have the words to express it.
What a wonderful thing it would be if all of us had people in our lives who cared enough to observe our lives, and understand what we needed to thrive, and cared enough to give that to us or do that for us. People who could tell we are not thriving, and look at our circumstances and apply their knowledge to figuring out what is lacking, and doing something about it.
I think that is something plants can teach us.