One coneflower is brown. Am I a failure? Can I haz joy?


I got a new bunch of plants delivered yesterday. We went to the garden center to check out the sale and to pick up some more coneflowers, some lettuce, some cauliflower, and some strawberry plants. My daughter asked me ironically, “do you like me as much as you like your plants?”

It got me thinking.

Until the beginning of the pandemic, for some years now, I have not been sure if I enjoy anything. Or have an interest. I mean, I follow politics. I analyze culture. I watch movies. I like food?

On weekends and during holidays, I have sometimes idly asked myself, what would I do for fun? If I had a lot of time to myself, what do I want to do? And I have had no answers. I only knew that I wanted to be safe with my family, not doing work, maybe watching TV. OK, that’s not the healthiest attitude, maybe. Co-dependency? Sloth?

So I wondered how I would age. I’ve seen elderly persons, especially desi people, who have centered their lives around their families, particularly their children, devoting their all to these persons, and they can be pretty exhausting individuals. I don’t want to be like that. I want my own interests and hobbies.

But you can’t just cultivate a hobby. It has to happen because you enjoy it, not because someone said you should do it. Everybody told me I should go walking, or work out, and that would be fun. And the more they said it the less fun it became. Walking to me is bound up with environment. There has to be a pleasant environment for walking, otherwise it’s not fun; it’s stressful.

I blogged last year about crochet and knitting. I was quite triumphant, if you recall. Then I developed hand pain – which is worse now – so that was that. I look at my yarns and feel – well, frustrated and sad.

I don’t know how it happened, but somehow this year, I looked at the yard and I thought, why don’t I put some flowers in there and see what happens? I don’t know anything about gardening. In Pakistan you had a gardener. He did the gardening. You enjoyed it. You looked at the plants, and it was your garden. You didn’t really get your hands dirty.

So I didn’t know how to do it, I don’t know what to do first, what to do next, and what not to do. Fortunately there’s Google and YouTube, as well as friends on social media who are generous with advice, information, and resources.

May be an image of flower and outdoors

So I started with some thing easy – I literally googled easy care plants and flowers. And I started with some coneflowers. Well, to be honest, I started with the sales at the Home Depot. And searched Etsy for easy care cat safe plants.

I randomly buried some seeds in some places and – well, not much happened. I ignored a bunch of complicated instructions. I avoided the plants that needed multiple steps. The creeping thyme that I tried to grow indoors is still nothing. I got a prayer plant, a parlor palm and a few others. I stuck some in the ground and I kept some indoors.

I killed the Boston fern and the prayer plant. My parlor palm isn’t doing so well. I don’t know why. I’ve done my best with them.

May be an image of indoor

I had issues with flying gnats and other bugs, which I cannot stand inside the house. So I have established that my expertise does not lie with indoor plants. I really hate bugs. But I have some plants that must move indoors in the winter. My raat ki rani is flourishing this summer: a friend gave it to me (mistakenly; she thought it was motia and it turned out to be rkr.) A foliage plant I got from Trader Joe’s turned out to be a fragrant jasmine. Both were lovely and fragrant this summer. I have a pot with mint and parsley that is not exuberant but isn’t dead either. I hope these do well indoors during the winter, and I hope they respect my dislike of bugs.

No photo description available.
wildflowers from seed.

My coneflowers, a small rose-bush, black eyed Susans, gaillardia, phlox, salvia, and even some wildflowers grown from seed are doing quite well in the garden. I’m waging war against dandelions and creeping Charlie – not to mention roots, gravel, rocks, and broken bottles. I’m throwing in an array of ground cover. The idea is, I hope one or two of them will succeed. We’ll see. So random is my planting, that my spouse (happy to see me engaged in this activity) asks me where I plan to put the new flowers. I just want a riot of color, I say, just, you know, in front (I flap my hands in generalized directions). I have no real plan. Maybe it will be a meadow of flowers. Who cares. it will replace the creeping charlie, the dandelions, and the nightshade and thistle that keep popping up everywhere. (See? I can identify them now!)

I’ve planted some oat grass for my cat in an indoor pot. He loves his grass, so I got him some ornamental maiden grass, which was fine, until it went brown. Now he doesn’t seem to like it as much. The store-bought cat grass isn’t really grass, and doesn’t seem natural at all. So I keep a few indoor plants for him.

tiny sapling of oat grass emerged today

Honestly, I’m actually surprised to find that I have a hobby. I enjoy gardening. It is physically challenging for me. I get tired. My hands do hurt. The bugs absolutely love me, and I itch all over. I still like gardening a lot.

But. Part of me is afraid that I will fail. That the one or two coneflowers that that have shriveled and gone brown are a harbinger of what is to come for the lot of them. I have to try. And if it didn’t go well, that would really suck.

I try not to think about that, because I’ve lost so many things I enjoyed before. Academia robbed me of my joy in reading and writing, to a great extent, and that was a heavy blow – they were my life. Depression took a lot of them from me too. I used to feel powerful and happy when I taught. Horrible bosses mixed my teaching with their politics. I had to give up crochet and knitting because of hand pain.

So feeling enjoyment in anything has been difficult. It’s nice to find that I can enjoy something, – an activity, especially, that is not related to screens.

The garden, the flowers, are real. And now that tomato plant is real, the tiny lettuce plants growing from seed are real! The first tiny sapling of oat grass is real.

Unfortunately the shriveled echinacea is real, the once flourishing, now-brown aster, is real too.

Gardening is my new hobby and it bears, as you can see, a heavy responsibility.

polka dot plant better do well

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s