Loneliness is a sure killer. Lonely people often keep pets, to give an extension to their anguished lives. In most cases, pets give them a reason to come back home, and once home pets give them a reason to play and have fun. Fool around and forget the world.
Not everyone is comfortable with pets though, either due to allergies or because of cramped spaces or due to others who share the space. At times, pets look like one more responsibility which would come on them and push them to another daily chore and add on to their already stressed life.
Companions of empty nesters
Life for all of us changes quite a few times. It changed for me when we became empty-nesters. We always had plants at home, but my connect with them was very limited, maybe just to touch them and at times water them if they felt dry. There was no tending, no talking, no moving them around and no care per-se, we just coexisted.
A few months after our only child left to study abroad, I started observing that birds flock to plants, they sit there and definitely look around for water. We went ahead and put in place a waterhole for them. Crows were the first ones, pigeons followed, occasionally a cuckoo would also come and though rare a couple of parrots too. The usual morning chat got a piece of news sharing – which bird came and did what. This led to my enhanced interaction with the plants. I started looking at their growth, spotting new leaves, witnessing heat taking a few leaves away in summers. One by one I started making a connect with them. I knew what they were doing, how they were growing, glowing, flowering, struggling or dying. I knew which plant was where and exactly how it looked and worked.
Love you back
It started with five-ten minutes a day in the morning, walking past the plants and looking at them. Slowly I started interacting with the part-time gardener who came once a week. I didn’t realize I was in love. I needed to look at them, meet them, was pained to see them lose a leaf or die, for reason known or unknown. Plants also found their way of loving me back – flowers were fuller than I had ever seen, and crops in pots were amazing. Hundreds of chillies arrived at first, but slowly my focus shifted to Basil. What a plant! Day after day, I learned new things- including how to make Pesto sauce, amazingly fresh and tasty.
Time to name them
Slowly my plants started getting new housemates, I decided to have them in three groups – fruits and veggies, flowering plants and fresh air plants. Every time I added plants, I would know how much of what I needed. Slowly but surely, naming groups if not individual plants became a routine. The tall Araucaria was named Euro and I started asking Euro how tall do you wish to go? And it felt like it replied back: Wait and watch and just take care of me and I will surprise you. Similarly, money plants got named as Paisa, and I constantly asked them: When are you coming? At times I would urge – now come quickly, but Paisas were always busy in procreation and it worked for me too.
Bonding, then heartbreak
There was a view from my home which was not pleasing to say the least. I went ahead and created a green curtain with Areca Palms, tall green and beautiful. I started seeing these four Areca Palms as friends, who changed my worst view to the best. Loving them was fun and they got a name too – Palmoos. Euro, Paisas, and Palmoos became my constant companions and now for over four years, we have been living together. I believe they understand my moods by the way I talk to them, care for them and stand next to them.
Unfortunately, like pets, you develop a bond with your plants too. Recently, we had to leave town for almost 15 days and so made elaborate arrangements for plants to be pampered and loved, but that didn’t work. When we came, 11 of them had left us forever, and another 15 were struggling. Of those 15, we could save only 8. It was truly a heartbreak. It has been two months now, but I still miss them and frequently look at the spots where they were planted. Like for pets, we brought new plants to cover for them for the sake of continuity, but it’s not easy to banish pain so easily.
Develop green fingers
Water, 100% Organic Fertilizers, Fresh Air, Sunlight, Shade and lots of love is what plants need, and they need it on a daily basis. They need you to stand next to them and look at each one as an individual. They expect you to clean their leaves – dust and bird droppings both, they expect you to move them around your home. They just don’t want to be stationary, you are their feet and arms and they want you to use them.
What started as a five-ten minute look-up is now a daily activity of at least one hour. And on Sundays, it can go up to three hours.
I love my plants. They are also my company and companions; they live through me and I live through them. And, fresher air comes as a bonus.