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Another day in the country

© Another Day in the Country

I feel sorry for the poor plants who are my house dwellers this time of year. It seems they are neglected. I forget that they have come inside to live with me for a few months, and that they are real, living things and they need tending.

In the spring, quite early in fact, the ivy and the ferns go out on the covered porch and they are happy campers all summer long until November when even their sheltered home is prone to freezing. We are contrary to the heat installers in the house, the plants and I; because it seems that any wall with a sunny window also has a heat duct nearby. It might be good for the circulation in the house, but it’s not good for the plants. They dry out quickly and they need nourishment.

Another problem with their short indoor stay is that I’m not used to them. They aren’t steady in my routine and I forget they’re there. This morning, I was clearing off the countertop in the bathroom and here was my little “good cheer” bamboo plant that Centre School had given me when Tim died three years ago, crying out in thirst.

“Oh, you poor thing,” I said, “I forget that you are a living entity and need to be tended to, I’m sorry.”

And I grabbed a cup of water and refreshed it. I take that bamboo plant for granted setting there in front of the window. I’d moved it there, from the corner of the tub, so that it could get more winter light. I love the way sunshine casts its shadows on the wall, tall bamboo stalks, long slender leaves — first thing in the morning, one would think you were in the tropics.

And then I turned to the philodendron over by the bedroom window. Such a sturdy plant, the last to demand attention. It has survived for years and years on very little pampering. “You’re thirsty, too, aren’t you?” (I’m talking to plants now … and apologizing for neglect.) That plant is so pretty that you’d think it was fake.

In fact, in the hall bathroom, I have one that is fake and a fake fern. The opposite happens here. I go in that room so seldom that I’m startled to see the lovely plant and think, “When did I water it last?” before I remember it’s made of plastic. This day and age, it seems to me there are so many inventions that trick us into thinking that we are really doing something that we aren’t — like growing plants.

I watch people stand in front of the television screen swinging sticks, remotes, wands, whatever, pretending they are playing a game; but they aren’t really. They aren’t feeling the satisfactory crunch of the ball hitting the bat. This isn’t real, it’s virtual reality.

In a real game you deal with a real person on the other side playing with you, their skills, their feelings, their smell, their laughter, their shouts — and that’s just the beginning of the interaction, Seems to me it’s like trading in a real fern for a plastic one.

Sure, there’s a little work involved. Real people and real plants need tending and what does it say about us when we aren’t willing to cultivate real interactions? We can build fake worlds, have pretend relationships, and even experience virtual closeness on the internet.

It’s fake, folks! And temporarily, at least, easy way out is to do something fake, something pretend, like pretending we have “friends” on Facebook or find ourselves tweeting and texting blurbs instead of having a real face-to-face conversation.

What frightens me is that we’ll forget, or maybe not even learn in the first place, how to do something real, like growing real plants and having a real conversation — which is vastly different than a tweet, a report, a rant, or a drama.

Have you noticed how difficult it seems for people to speak in complete sentences, to have a wide vocabulary or even make eye contact? You can’t have a conversation without eye contact, just like you can’t have a real conversation without listening and questioning, without curiosity and caring.

Hopefully, in our interaction with another real person we’ll actually learn something, we may laugh, our whole body will react with attentiveness, energy, joy! Sorry, you can’t get the good stuff second hand. Just like packaged food isn’t like fresh or fake flowers aren’t like the real thing. It all takes tending to, but it’s worth it!

It’s another day in the country and I’m hungering for a good conversation like I thirst for water on a hot summer day.

Last modified Feb. 22, 2012

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