Thursday, 31 January 2013

Raspberries & Caves

I found my love for plants and gardening by accident. I grew up spending my summers helping Dad in the gardens; every Saturday it was my job to go through the raspberry canes and pick berries for breakfast. We moved from the house with all the garden plots and berry canes, and we never really did much at the new house. To this day, I miss those raspberry canes. 

I got older and started a life of my own, and for years didn't have so much as a house plant. But then I went to Mexico and found myself in a cave in the stunning state of Chiapas. Caves are profoundly spiritual places to some Mayans: they are often regarded as the entry points to the world beyond this one; they are a source of life and death. People bring offerings to deities and honorariums to lost loved ones. The further you climb down, the more sacramental candles and bouquets you find, especially around formations that look like human beings or the Virgin. It was such a moving experience. One of the images that has most stuck with me from that experience is that of bromeliads growing in the cool damp darkness deep within the cave. I'm a bit of a romantic, and seeing that a plant could be so resilient and adaptable and happily grow in a place where it is starved of almost everything it needs--well, the bromeliad won my heart. My interest in gardening was reborn. Unfortunately I lived in an apartment at the time and had no idea what to do with my rediscovered interest.

Back home, one dreary Pacific North West winter day a friend of mine wanted to go to a local nursery to lift his spirits and I accompanied him. I had been to many nurseries in my life and left unchanged, but for some reason that day something was impressed upon me. All the colours and textures; the juxtaposition of lush tropical groupings against bare-bones arid climate plants--it was a feast for the eyes. I simply could not believe that so many things could be planted here in Vancouver; gardening was suddenly so much more than roses, raspberries, pansies, and vegetables. It was about creating your own little world with whatever you wanted. 

When I finally moved to a place that had some serious garden space, I was thrilled. In the past few years, gardening has become so much more than just plants; it is almost like therapy. It has become a way of dealing with homesickness, loss, and heartbreak, as much as it has been a way to exercise my creativity and bring joy into other people's lives. I think, in general, people underestimate the power of having a little bit of greenery in your life. We get so caught up in flow of life, lost in our own heads, and isolate little pieces of ourselves; we forget to stop and smell the roses. I built my first terrarium as a reminder to pause, meditate, and appreciate the beauty that life is whatever you want it to be, and is born out of all unlikely circumstances. 

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