Green and Maroon
Mark Rothko, 1953.
There’s just something extremely charming and mesmerizing about gardening for me.
I used to disregard it as a boring and geriatric activity without much meaning.
There was a section in the garden in my childhood home that contained these fascinating, blooming red and white rose bushes. When my father returned home every weekend, he would spend what seemed like an eternity of hours under the gleaming yellow sun, meticulously caring and pruning each and every one of them. Patience was never his strong suit, especially and still when he gets hungry, but he seemed to always and only make an exception for his flowers. His ones and only.
I thought they were beautiful, but back then I didn’t understand why he cared about them that much. They were just something pretty over and over again, season after season, until the bushes decided to die in their individual due times.
Most convenient stores and supermarkets here in Taiwan have their own loyalty system program that changes its rewards theme every season. Essentially, when someone spends a certain amount of money, he / she gets a little pamphlet and complimentary stickers depending on the total value. There are specific points and requirements for different products.
I was never a huge fan of them, probably because the rewards were never that tempting to me most of the time.
Then there was that one odd day dated back to March 2015.
It was a relatively normal weekday. I stepped into the convenience store to grab some snacks, and to temporarily escape from the unbearable midday heat and humidity. I didn’t get the snacks for myself, but for someone else. That is a habitual kind gesture that I’ve developed ever since a couple of years ago. Perhaps it is because I think this small, unexpected surprise can bring a smile to that person’s face or brighten up his / her day. It might not be the case, but I can always try.
When I have an affinity for someone, I tend to ask lots of whys. I have an innate curiosity to learn about each and every one of their individual nooks and crannies. I expend attention and tend to remember the obscure, overlooked details. Over the years, I have developed a special type of fondness for the unnoticed facets. They somehow make me feel, even to the tiniest extent, closer to that particular person. I see it as a shared yet uncommon fact from that person. Unintentional secrets.
I follow through the same procedures with interests and hobbies. I read, ask, and learn, perhaps a bit too copiously.
That convenient store chain was gifting pots and seeds (hydroponics) at the time. The only time I’ve planted anything was when I was in elementary school. It was a corn plant that definitely sprouted. Unfortunately, it died not long after. Perhaps it was a lack of care or experience. I’d say both. Death was a foreign concept, so I mourned for a few minutes…tops, and that’s me overestimating.
A split moment of curiosity suddenly urged me to exchange something that day. I was clueless as to where it came from, but it has been a consistent personality trait of mine to do irregular activities on a whim from time to time.
That’s how I started gardening again.
First impression wise, horticulture seems quite tedious and bland. I think it is because there is an absence of locomotion for most of plants, with a few rare exceptions such as a Venus flytrap.
We tend to associate inactivity with monotony, especially nowadays when we’re booming with the next big thing or the new exciting stimulus. We’ve been so accustomed to being up to date with even the most minuscule news, we forget how to slow and calm down. Fast forwarding is such a norm now that we have to remind ourselves that the long-lasting, beautiful and good things usually do not happen in just an instant. Maybe that’s where “too good to be true” came from, a short saying and an attempt to try and ground us back to reality. Patience is definitely a virtue. Perhaps we should walk instead of race with time periodically, so we can admire some of our views on the way.
We also conveniently neglect the fact that it’s so easy to be too dependent on technology. It’s unsurprising to see how some people use their phones, tablets, laptops / computers, watches, and whatever devices are left (I’m sure there are a lot I have yet to list, but you get the gist) in almost all of their waking hours. As we master the finer points of technology, we seem to lose some of our edges on physical socialization, interaction, and communication. How unfortunate.
(I also note the irony of how I’m writing this post with my computer.)
A plant takes its sweet time to grow. It could take a day or two to weeks or to the end of time (probably because those seeds are duds and are never meant to be born) for seeds to sprout. The short, milky white root is usually accompanied by a leaf or two; they are colored in lightest shade of green, which somehow represent the start of a new life. A friend of mine told me that the color green symbolizes as hope in Germany. It’s quite fitting.
However, it’s so confusing and contradictory to acknowledge and be aware that a seed may be simultaneously strong enough to sprout, but also weak enough to die at any single point in time. Premature plant deaths never really bothered anyone, yet upon closer inspection, it does reflect the fragility of life. Slow and stunted growth contrasts a bit too drastically from quick and sudden death.
There’s a well-known saying about how “the grass is greener on the other side”.
I agree…partially. I like the modified version I’ve read online a bit more, especially after I started gardening, which is along the lines of how “the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it”.
Taking care of a plant or anything, really, requires consistent care. I think we’re all aware of that. Other than that, an important yet too often disregarded fact when it comes to nurturing – and this doesn’t just apply to gardening, but to almost all aspects of life – is balance. A plethora and a lack of any essential element can and will kill whatever is existing.
I started to understand why my father cared so much for his rose bushes back then. It wasn’t entirely for the ephemeral blooms. He grasped the importance of patience, consistency, and balance and presented the three vital factors that contributed to their longevity. They cannot be granted immortality, as all living organisms have to say goodbye at one particular point in time. That is part of the beauty in life. We’re all on borrowed time, so it’s crucial to expend those on people and activities that matter to you. Spend whatever you have on the who and what you find significant. The things you actually give a damn about. Do it for yourself first instead of doing it for anyone else.
There is an inexplicable sense of amazement and accomplishment to bring something to life with my own bare hands. It never happens overnight. I’ve dealt with many dead plants (coincidentally, threw away one withered succulent earlier today) as well as dead ends throughout my journey so far, but it’s simply a path we all have to go through.
Green in nature always remind me of beginnings. They are mainly the introductions and the preludes of life, but they can also be cast as main characters. The beginnings will draw and lead us along our paths and show us the entire spectrum of colors. The sweets, bitters, and sours of life. Some of the new things get nipped in the bud, but fret not – some really do last. Those are the seeds that will sprout, flourish, and eventually give you some insight to your (soon to be or already) fruitful life.
We’ll live through countless seasons. There will be sprouts, blooms and withers in between summers and winters, but that’s all part of the journey we go through until our due times.
In the meantime though, find the individual greens that you want to plant, root, and intertwine yourself with instead of constantly reaching out for that unattainable green grass and green light (I’d love it if someone gets this reference, oh please) on the permanent other side.