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Plants as a metaphor of change

David Bowie wrote a song about it. Barnes and Noble have many books on it. Also, Netflix has at least 30 movies and I promise you will do it after watching them. What do musicians, book sellers, and streaming services have in common? Change. I’ve heard that it takes 21 days to change habits-maybe not. Change is reality in itself, and there are many ways to deal with it.

How do you see changes in our own lives? The changes are so small that you may feel that nothing is happening. Think-Lose weight or stop smoking. You may feel like 5 steps forward, 10 steps backwards. Otherwise, the change can be brutal and fast. Think-Unexpected death, illness or visitor from the past. Perhaps one of these situations sympathized with you and made a difference in your life. Many of us know how to measure changes in life. Lost pounds on the scale, days quitting smoking, days worked out, etc.

But what about the changes that are always happening around us? How can I see it and how can I use it? In January 2011 I started aggressive chemotherapy and denied what the drug did to me. I knew I was going to lose my hair, and I read about all the other side effects, but I thought, “No, I’m in good shape, so this won’t happen.” I was wrong.

About a month after starting treatment, I received a 9-inch potted plant from a friend in Minnesota. He was in his 80s caring for his wife with Parkinson’s disease. The planter contained four types of plants. It was green and was perfect for my little apartment. I placed the plants on the table by the window and watered them every Sunday. As I continued to treat, the plant thrived and eventually bloomed. On the other hand, I wasn’t prosperous. Of course, all the hair had fallen off, then neuropathy began, followed by tinnitus, loss of taste, and extreme fatigue.

Plants have become a metaphor for my changes. The more ill I got It feels great to see the beauty in such a small container. As the years went by, I noticed that the plants were struggling. I’ve tried different places in the apartment and they have lots of water, little water, lots of sunshine, little sunshine, but nothing seems to work. It was still alive, but it grew very little. It has been several years without the flowers blooming. At the same time, I have changed. My hair grew and, like plants, I struggled to stay on the soil. When I moved to a new apartment, I replanted the plant thinking it needed more room for roots. It lived on, but did not bloom yet and did not grow much.

Four years after receiving the plant, I moved into my house and put it in the front window. Finally, I found a happy place. Today, six years after receiving the plant, it is in a 12-inch pot and is still in the front window. It is 24 inches high and extends into a 55 inch circle. The plant blooms at least once a month. The man who sent it to me lost his wife and about a year ago I lost him. The last time I met him, I shared the story of a factory five years ago, and I don’t think I remember him sending it.

A plant that always reminded us that it was before change. The plant went well, then struggled, then was fine, and struggled, and is now thriving. Plants have always been prone to change and have always reminded us that as humans, we thrive one day (weeks, months, even years) and others may struggle.

Sometimes I just stand by the plant and look out the window. I am tall because I am tall. I am amazed by its persistence despite its beauty and the odds of opposition to it. Looking out the window this fall, I could almost cry as I saw the most spectacular orange leaf-covered tree in the front yard I had ever seen. It’s just a Vermont postcard and I live in North Carolina. Now it is February and there are no leaves, only empty branches. A tree changes like a plant. I think it will soon become a new leaf. Trees, like my plants, are another example of how change is in front of us if we take the time to notice it.

Plants have become a metaphor for my changes. What is your metaphor? Can you encourage change around you, deal with it, accept it, and accept it?

It’s a sequel.