Saturday, February 9, 2008

A Personal Connection to Nature

I have been reading a lot of gardening books this winter. My favorite books are about people's personal experiences in the garden. I began reading these books as research for the book that I am writing. (This summer I interviewed 14 female gardeners about their gardening experiences and am writing about them. I will talk more about this in later postings.) I am finding myself deeply fascinated by these personal stories. One in particular touched me very deeply and made me reconsider my own connection to my landscape -- both indoors and out.

Judith Handelsman's Growing Myself addresses how all life is interconnected. The author talks about how she learned to better care for her plants by relating to them on a personal level. She discusses how talking to her plants helps them grow. She talks about how our positive and negative thoughts and actions affect our plants growth. She explains how it is important to respect nature for our own personal growth.

I started thinking about my houseplants. I have always considered my gardening talents to lie in my outdoor garden. I tend to kill houseplants. I forget to water them or leave them in obscure corners of the room in an attempt to "brighten" the corner. Before reading Handelsman I chose whatever houseplant struck my fancy, without consideration to how the plant would fit within my home and lifestyle. But now I understand my folly. I have begun strategically placing houseplants in spots that will make them happy -- near bright sunny windows, near each other, in places I frequent and won't forget to water them. I talk to my plants and stroke their leaves almost every day. I live with my plants and have welcomed them into my home as living entities rather than inanimate objects. My houseplants are thriving and I feel much calmer about getting through this usually dreadful winter season.

I realized that I have always felt a connection to outdoor plants. Trees especially have always been friends to me. I remember most of the trees in my life, but houseplants never impressed me in quite the same way. Handelsman talks about bringing outdoor trees in and using them to make nature a part of your life wherever you are. One story about a large sickly tree that she took on, lovingly placed in a corner of her apartment, nursed, and hung a hammock from was inspirational. For a plant is a plant whether indoors or out. I've been buying large pots to transplant my houseplants. I spread newspaper out on the floor and dip my hands into bags of potting soil. It's not quite like digging in the dirt outside, but it can warm my soul until the snows melt here in New Hampshire.

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