Sunday, 20 June 2010

Confessions of a Plant-killer: Part One

I have been realising that what most inspires me about some of my recent ventures is that I am growing and making things that are actually alive: tomato plants, herbs and flowers that need regular watering; broccoli sprouts that must be rinsed twice a day and eaten within a few days of sprouting; sourdough bread made with a fermented starter that needs to be fed with flour and water to keep it alive. When I tend these living things, and when we eat them as a family, I somehow feel more alive myself, and very happy to be providing life and nourishment to our bodies. But their aliveness is exactly what scares me about these things, too, and what has kept me from them over the years despite numerous urges to grow-my-own, sprout-my-own and bake-my-own. The awful truth about living things is that you can easily kill them, and I say this from bitter experience.

Yes, I admit that my track record with living things over the years has not been strong. When I first left home to go to university – in a flurry of 18-year-old excitement about new independence and having a room that was ‘my own space’ – my mother’s love and hopes went with me in the form of kettle and mugs, and my father’s in houseplants. He would tenderly ask after them all whenever we talked on the phone, and I would rather dutifully report the surprise emergence of new flowers or leaves, while always taking their living presence very much for granted. Little did he know (and even I was too unaware to realise) that they only survived because of the motherly, Devonshire cleaning lady who came in every morning to bustle around my slumbering body, emptying my bin and, yes, watering my plants. A year later, sharing a house with friends and no cleaner, I discovered that plants die if you don’t look after them! As I was only just learning how to feed and water myself, I guess the stretch to plants proved to be just too much.

But over fifteen years have passed since then. Surely, I must have learned this lesson by now? The confessions of a serial plant-killer continue tomorrow...

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