Greener BeeGreen LivingFaith: The green thumb I do not have

Sometimes solving a dilemma takes a long time. I think I’ve resolved this one, at least in my own mind.

I can’t say I have a green thumb, but I do have a long-term emotional relationship with several green plants in our house. I love the viney green plant that was given to us by my mother-in-law sometime in the early 1980s. For decades, I have twined its new reaching stems into a loose circle that hangs over the edge of the table near my favorite reading chair. I remember Margaret’s plant at my in-laws’ home in Illinois and confess I don’t recall being especially delighted to receive a cutting of that plant before they moved to North Carolina. So that plant came to live in Wisconsin and then moved with us to Texas and Oklahoma, and 17 years ago it moved back to Wisconsin with us. I don’t think we discovered its modest flowers that bloom hidden under its shiny succulent leaves for the first couple decades we lived together.

The cuttings for our schefflera came from my brother and sister-in-law a couple years ago. They had taken cuttings from my mother’s plant that had sat outside her doorway in her retirement center, a plant I remember when it was sitting near the bookshelves in the house from which I got married in 1963. It’s tall and gawky these days, and I sense my growing desire to take cuttings and put them in a different pot and move it to a different location.

I bought the ponytail palm in 1985 as a birthday gift for Al’s first birthday we lived in Texas. I’d never seen one of those plants before. It was a handsome plant about 10 inches high. While it started out sitting on our kitchen table, it started needing larger and larger pots, eventually becoming a floor-sitting plant. And so it sits today in a corner of our sunroom, seven feet tall! Before moving it outside for another summer — and then moving it back inside in September — I realized I was ready to let it move to live elsewhere. It is satisfying that we can go visit it in its new location at the Fish Creek Grill. I confess I have my eye out for a new small ponytail palm to invite into our home.

It’s the jade plant that requires the most mental attention these days. That plant was bought in a grocery store for about a couple dollars. It came to live in our house in Appleton, before our daughter was born in 1974. From time to time over the decades, each of our three children has stated their interest in having the plant when we no longer wanted it anymore — or when we died, whichever came first. None of them want it now, because in the passing of the decades, it has grown to be five feet tall and four feet wide. So we’ll keep it for now. I’ve been looking on the internet for a large wheeled base as it as we enter the next chapter of its life, still together after all those years.

No one ever told me that buying cute little plants would present so many opportunities for meditating about the green living plants we’ve shared our lives with for so many decades. Not bad, I say, for someone who doesn’t have a green thumb.

Cynthia Barnes Johnson has been watering their plants in Door County since 2000. Cynthia and Al are active at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Door County. One of their pleasures is calling out “Beauty Alert” to each other when one of them sees an especially beautiful shaft of light or has noticed wave action on Kangaroo Lake, or want to share this very moment of sunset. They travel afar but know their home is here. Cynthia can be reached at cynthiabarnesjohnson@gmail.com.


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