I had never bought dirt before. It seems senseless to pay for something you could find any place outside! Yes, yes, there’s good dirt and bad dirt, but surely – if you’re willing to look for it, if you ever have need for some dirt, there will be some to be found not too far away. I live in Canada for Pete’s sake – plants grow all! Or if you want the really good stuff – go talk to a composter. Find a neighbour willing to lend a hand. But heavens – to pay for it? Imagine, it’s like spending money on air!
Yet, as I grow older and older, it seems the new things just keep coming too.
A few years ago a good friend of mine moved away
on a whim flip of a coin in faith and obedience to go to school in Alberta. Her dorms were drab, to say the least. That year was a tough one. Lonely.
She came home at Thanksgiving on a mission to find things to brighten up her room and make it her own. Frugal and creative, she went back successfully armed with freshly recovered throw pillows and colourful things for her walls. Most importantly, however, she went forth with plants.
Turns out, plants are $2.49 apiece at wal mart if you get the small ones.
“Plants keep you happy.” her mom had said.
And for $2.49, I figured I could do with a little plant happiness too, especially since I lived in a basement. Thus began my appreciation for tiny little houseplants.
Especially when they grow to be small, then medium, and hopefully one day large and luscious, beautiful, full-foliaged houseplants. They brighten up the room, and yes, they make me happy.
Neither mine nor Kendra’s original plants survived much longer than Christmas, unfortunately, and my poor plant’s demise nearly took another friendship along with it in death, but that’s a story for another time. It’s safe to say I’ll never look at a kalanchoe plant the same way again, and I’ll leave it at that.
As it turns out, however, plants need a little more than your daily appreciation and a good dousing of water every now and again. I purposefully try to choose only the hardiest types to bring home, when I find them in their tiny little wal mart containers, but sometimes it’s hard to tell. Sometimes they don’t even have instructions – and what they do have are vague. Thankfully, after the extermination of my original leafy friend, I decided if they can’t manage to grow on their own, well, life is tough, and Wal Mart’s aisle 22 is never lacking in replacements. So far, they’ve all hung on quite well.
That is, they’ve managed well, thanks to Sarah and Uncle Nael.
The first summer after meeting Sarah and her family, I went away to Manitoba.
“I have to do something with my plants.” I said to Sarah. “Do you know anyone who likes plants?”
“Yeuah” she said, like it was obvious. “Just give them to my dad. He loves plants! And he will give them back to you when you come back.”
And thus, the annual plant babysitting service was born.
When I go away for a few months, I send my drooping, discoloured plants to Uncle Nael, he tsk tsks the shape they’re in and say “no, no, it’s ok” and tells me he can help them. And he does. I pick them up later on, and they’re taller, trimmed, healthy.
The system works so well, I’ve taken to texting Sarah pictures of my plants when I get worried.
“Does this look okay?” I say.
“Oh my.” She says. “You need to put it in a bigger pot.”
“Oh yeah.” I say. “That makes sense.”
And then I badger her with questions.
“Does it matter what kind of pot? Can a pot be too big?”
And finally, because it was February, “Where do I get dirt?”
The dirt I always assumed you could use was covered in snow and ice. The thought of hacking away at that to find frozen, sandy, gravel-dirt was not a pleasant one.
“Try wal-mart.” Someone said. Lo and behold: aisle 22 is well-supplied.
So one Saturday afternoon I wasn’t doing much, and I figured Sarah wasn’t either. I invited her over. It was all part of my manipulative plan… to get her to do the dirty work for me. Literally.
I have very little confidence when it comes to plants.
But maybe more than that, I just needed a friend. A friend to do normal-life things with, and problem-solve the petty things. I wanted someone to be with me, and to do it together. I knew I was capable of sloppily transplanting my greenery if I had to, but it felt like a lonesome task.
When Sarah came over I don’t know if I told her I had plants for us and a project, but she willingly jumped in and figured the plants out with me. She showed me how to put rocks in the bottom for drainage, and I used one as a hammer to put nails in the bottom of a bucket for drainage too. (I’m happy to report I now own a hammer. Thank you, Paul.)
We squinted and scowled at the dirt as we scooped, trying to keep it off my floor and table but not really succeeding.
We tried to google plant care and names. I don’t think we succeeded there either.
We did, however, have a ‘normal day’ with a quiet little project. We scooped and prodded that dirt and nestled roots in their new homes. I can see how gardening is therapeutic. Working with dirt is a good thing.
I don’t know what we talked about that day, but I think it might have been friendship. I know I was thinking about it by the end of the afternoon.
I thought about Rebekah, and Alyssa and Saikhnaa and Adele, from Mongolia. They taught me a lot about friendship. They likely don’t know it, but I learned a lot about friendship when I was there, and it’s made me a better friend back here.
More intentional. More content. More patient and purposeful. Still very imperfect – in fact, I let people down daily, I know. But I see friendship in a different way than I did 5 years ago, that’s for sure.
Somewhere, I’ve learned that the every day is pretty powerful. It’s important. The invitation doesn’t have to be tidy. It doesn’t have to be very exciting, or necessary. Even though I likely could have managed these plants alone, by growing them together they’ve thrived a lot longer. They’re alive. Growing strong.
Even if buying dirt offends my dignity just a little bit, I’m glad I did it.
It gave some beautiful things room to grow.