A couple of days ago, in New York, the high temperature teetered around 25 degrees and the sky was overcast and threatening. It was my first day off of two. I woke up from an overnight shift around 1 PM and let my dog run like hell to the patch of grass in front of my condo and take a leak while I threw on a pot of coffee and stood braless in my doorway, watching his little semi-balding body ripple in the January wind. My house, rented from a coworker, is warm and quaint. I have a galley kitchen big enough for myself, a nice couch, central heat (beneficial for this time of year), a clean bathroom, and a large television. The place was not furnished by me, however I was given run to decorate and add things from my old dwellings. Unfortunately – and fortunately as well, I suppose – I did not carry more than a couple of car-fulls when I moved in June. I had to leave my house in a very abrupt manner, essentially providing me with a crash course in the “does this bring joy?” way of life. I tossed somewhere between 12 and 20 55-gallon garbage pails of stuff; stuff I hadn’t seen in almost three years – stuff that was left when my brother and roommate moved out – just…stuff. When I left, I had my bedding, my dog, my fish, and my houseplants. So when my landlord/roommate advised me to feel free to add my own things to the home, I put the fish on the coffee table, my dog on the floor, and my houseplants around the living room.
I have a gross love of houseplants. I revel in the added greenery – in the accents of flowers, indoor palms, day lilies, and succulents. Especially living in solitude, or even with a dog, the addition of life is refreshing. So a couple of days ago, when the high temperature teetered around 25 degrees, I sipped my coffee and walked around inspecting my houseplants. My succulents were recently propagated and happy, sitting on a window sill next to my kitchen table. My large palm plant was recently re-potted in December, and watered and happy at the base of my stairs. When I came to my day lily, perched in the far window, wilting, yellowing, and sad.
The day lily is a legacy plant. When my dad’s mother passed away in July of 2008, my family received the floral arrangement as part of a sympathy gift which – in my opinion – was a very smart offering. The lily plant was kept alive for several years until it just stopped growing, wilted, and tragically died. I couldn’t bring myself to simply throw it away, so I put the entire pot outside in the backyard and contemplated what I would plant next. Hurricane Sandy came and went, and as I was outside inspecting the damages to the property, I noticed, miraculously enough, a small, budding, day lily. I enthusiastically put it in a pot and it returned to its original post in my house. Now, five years later, I once again faced the life of my day lily being threatened. I took it upon myself with parental responsibility to go to Home Depot, purchase new soil, a larger pot, and rehabilitate the plant. It was satisfying to do, and I’m sure the lily would thank me if it could.
It dawned on me during all of this that I truly love taking care of my houseplants. If I should never have children, I will instead have in my possession oxygen-producing green babies that need less care than a human but still produce a satisfaction to me as the caretaker. I will continue to propagate and breed succulents and create an army of shelf dwellers that give me fresh air so long as I maintain the water supply. Re-potting the day lily also made me realize that I love taking care of things in the way that it gives me a sense of purpose. It’s therapeutic, and rewarding, and these plants rely on me silently to not kill them. The day lily has been around almost as long as my dog has. It lived in four homes, three cars, two deaths (one of self and one of family), and while everything in my life has changed dramatically, tragically, and ultimately for the better over the past nine years, the day lily stayed.