SKETCHBOOK | What Am I, A Potted Plant?


When I was a kid, our house was full of plants. On every flat surface there was something in a pot, something which needed water, something that would get you yelled at if you got caught pulling it's leaves off. My mother would bustle in with a spray bottle and mist her plants, humming to them, occasionally explaining to us how much her plants loved these little baths.

This was all Mom-stuff--I don't think my father has the slightest interest in this sort of thing, at least not inside of the house. Today their house, the house we lived in throughout my high school years, and which they still live in today, is jammed full of houseplants. In fact, the seven or so acres are pretty jammed with flora of all kinds--my mother has practically terraformed their property, including a small man-made mountain covered with flowers and shrubs, numerous ponds small and large, each surrounded with rocks and statuary, and paths going every which way, all lined with carefully husbanded plants.

You hear about people getting older and hoarding newspaper clippings, or books, or just whatever, but my mother is hoarding plants. Trees, bushes, flowers, vegetables. Junipers, oak, azaleas, apple trees. It's crazy. But it's crazy beautiful. When I go to visit, and she walks me around the yard to show me her most recent additions/corrections (there are always corrections, always), it is always stunning the sheer volume and variety of what she has wrought in her vast yard. And it's humbling, in a way, to see so clearly the underpinnings of my own occasionally obsessive behavior, mirrored in the garden of this small woman who's pushing seventy.

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