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Bon Journal

Potting houseplants

Hot and sizzling.

Only 29 degrees Celsius and yet my body could hardly take the heat. Nevertheless I still maximised my surface conductivity by working outside: potting my fresh houseplant cuttings and cleaning out the shed.

I was first introduced to spider plants about ten years ago. These are curious creatures. They grow and weave like spiders. I observed the variegated type (light green and dark green) blossom before I learned of the single colour variety. When I visited my friend in Munich, I noticed that she had the dark green type sprawling wildly along the stairwell leading up to her flat. I brought some cuttings back to England. Ever since then, I've been carrying the descendants of these two types of spider plants all over London.

When left to their own device, the roots of these baby spider plants cling and wrap around each other - so tightly that I have to be very careful separating them. The tiny amount of water I had soaked them in could hardly sustain their survival for the two weeks I had been on vacation. Yet they managed to live and grow simply by clinging to each other.

Our resources on this earth are limited. We all know this, yet we don't cling to each other like spider plants. Instead, the stronger, wealthier, and more privileged ones are able to use more resources than the rest of us. Sometimes it's the pushing and shoving, not the clinging, that allows them to survive. Although we may be created equal, we certainly do not live equally well.

It's therapeutic to pot houseplants. I put broken china at the bottom of the pots to ease the drainage. Then I pour fresh compost on top. I hold the cutting straight up in the middle while I pour the rest of the compost around it. This mindless activity frees up my otherwise tired brain. It brings me down to earth again. Like these spider plants which do live and grow in water but prefer the solid earth, I, too can live on "work" but I prefer to play.

26 August 2001