Sometimes I find myself thinking about all the things my houseplants have witnessed in their silent—but I maintain—supportive, way. There is something to be said for another living being, even if it is an unruly fern or a homely cactus, being a party to all the pain, hope, love, excitement, anxiety, and so on, in life. Perhaps this is why I can’t seem to stop buying plants. Why every little blank space I see, on our bookshelf, on the filing cabinet at work, on the corner of the TV stand, is a plant spot just waiting to be occupied.
I think about my cactus Lorenzo in particular. He was my first houseplant, and I got him when I was 22, shortly after I moved out of my college apartment into my first real apartment, a studio in downtown Des Moines where I hung a shower curtain (to be fair, it was cute and floral) to separate the “bedroom” from the living room. It was the kind of apartment you’re in awe of at that age, one that caught the reflecting light and harsh angles of the towering bank across the street in the mornings, tossing straight-line shadows across the floor and walls, bending its orderly façade into new shapes. Lorenzo is derpy at best. You can see the rough edges of the places where he has simply lost an arm once it got too heavy. And where new arms have grown in downright disorderly ways. Still, seven years later, Lorenzo keeps growing and thriving, in his own weird way.
Every time I’ve moved, which has been a lot over the past five years, I’d buckle my tallest plant, a fern, into the passenger seat, both of us eager and anxious to learn what kind of light awaited us wherever we were going. Sometimes I would move the fern around whatever new space I was in, trying to find the best light, the most exposure, getting up on my tippy toes to give every potential perch a go. My fern, like all of us, needed to find the right light for itself, the kind of light that lingers and envelops and that you can just tell wants to stick around, even in the winter when it’s hard to come by.
I want that kind of light for each and every one of us.