Garden of Timeless Offers
plus personalized meditations are back :)
before we get into today’s tale, I’m happy to report that personalized meditations are back. I’ve really missed creating these individual pieces, each one is a complete mystery that unfolds on its own. I’m just along for the ride, recording the path. if you’d like to book, click here.
My mom is entangled in a lifelong love affair with plants. As a child, she escaped tumultuous family dinners by running into her wild garden and sleeping under the stars. In her teens and early twenties, she held down part time jobs as a gardener. I like to imagine her as a young woman walking slowly around Pepperdine campus with a hose, seemingly lost in a daze but secretly communicating with every leaf and blade. For a sensitive person prone to feeling overwhelmed, plants have always offered her a sanctuary.
Los Angeles never gave her much room for a garden, but wherever we moved #shepersisted.
Our first apartment in West LA had a tiny patio which she transformed into an enclave worthy of the most fantastical creatures from my imagination. She lined the walkway outside our apartment with leggy red geraniums and somehow managed to turn a gray wall of the carport into a waterfall of purple morning glory blossoms. I wish I had photos, but my parents stopped documenting things shortly after my mom got sick.
The sicker my mom got, the more the plants became an issue. She’d be too nauseous, in too much pain or (eventually when opioids were introduced) too sedated to get out of bed most days. The plants were mostly fine without her constant care, but they lived in her mind as little beings crying out for help. She answered their pleas whenever she could. Mostly that meant dragging a hose along the apartment’s walkway at 11pm. She’d do her best to be quiet, but her wandering mind often forgot the circumstance—likely transported into the wild landscapes of childhood. My dad worked late at a restaurant, often coming home after 1:30 AM, so I became the default watchman. At five or six years old, I’d be coaxing her back into bed after midnight.
The apartment complex was small with maybe seven units. We knew everyone and I think everyone knew our situation, so they let my mom do her thing. But over time all the familiar faces left and few of their replacements tolerated my mom’s nocturnal patterns.
Soon these dreamy garden sequences turned into hand-wringing sessions, as I would sit by the kitchen window listening for the sharp voice of a frustrated neighbor. The plants stopped serving as a portal for my overactive fantasy world. One of the guys who lived next door called the police, who actually showed up, ordering my mom to stop watering the plants. My dad wasn’t there and in truth neither was my mom— the medication had escorted her sensibilities elsewhere. I can’t remember the details of that night but it became clear to me that watering plants = hostility.
Eventually that apartment building was torn down to make space for condos. We found a large complex, figuring we’d be safe from demolition, in a unit with a little balcony. Soon it was full to the brim with plants and my mom found *~innovative~* places to store her larger trees throughout the sprawling property. That didn’t go so well—she got into screaming matches with the on-site manager (an ex cop), more police were called and an eviction notice was taped to our door within the year.
So it was off to another apartment complex, another creative place for plants. Another round of late night gardening sessions. Rather than inciting rebellion, my teenage years brought about a deep desire to comply. Anything to avoid conflict. It twisted my stomach to see my mom march down the stairs to her garden. I’d be upset with her and the angry neighbors and the urban landscape that provides no easy space for nature. My heart would race as I watched water form pools around the neighbor’s cars (the plants were now crammed on a long concrete shelf that sat at the end of the building’s carport).
Despite the familiar fight or flight response creeping in, I couldn’t help but appreciate the obvious peace that found my mother in her garden. Time and space fell to the wayside in this unspoken ceremony. Each flower was hailed as a miraculous appearance. She’d take reports from the avocado trees that never found a bee to pollinate them. Dead leaves would be plucked with care, vines would be delicately rerouted. If I didn’t call her inside, she’d have shuffled back and forth along that concrete bank till sunrise.
Eventually that apartment complex was sacrificed to the condo gods and my parents had a hard time finding a new place. They couldn’t be picky, finally landing in a small unit in a little apartment building with a strict no plants policy. So of course, my mom said okay two ficus trees and a few potted plants. Everything had to fit into a tiny outside triangle shaped space. A sliding screen door separates plant land from their living room, which I must admit is a very cute feature.
Before they could move into their current place, my mom had to let go of all her big trees, including a bay tree that was a gift from her father. She worked out a deal with the owner of a yoga studio, where she’d come by and water at night. Within a year, the studio ended up selling, flipping into an ambiguous office space in which she was not a welcome visitor.
There’s a distinct heartbreak that comes from losing the friends that have seen you through decades of pain. Each tree held my mom up in some way through the hardest years of her life. I wish I was able to take some of her plants, but at the time my housing was in flux and I couldn’t commit to dragging a big tree (or three) around this city.
Anyway back to the tiny triangle— recent additions include TWO giant fiddle leafs, both found in the alley. I discovered the first one, which was in very poor condition. I didn’t have much hope for it, but my mother has a magic touch. Now the fiddles are thriving and like all the trees my mom has cared for, they’ve begun to outgrow their environment. But in the past year, plants have fallen low on the list of my mom’s priorities. She spends a fair amount of time helping out my dad and her physical condition slips in the evenings.
Yesterday I was in a shitty mood—I’ve been fighting off the heavy hand of doubt this week—but my dad had a check up with his surgeon so I drove across town to support him. It went well (his knee has ample cartilage!) but I couldn’t shake my mood. I opted to hang at my parent’s apartment until the eastbound commute eased up. I’d just sat down when one of the plants outside toppled over in a truly pathetic fashion. Just looking at it spiked the needle on my depression meter: a half-dead corn plant in a cheap wicker pot, dirt and rocks flung in every direction. My mom rushed to clean up and I followed behind, listening to her coo over the sad little plant.
As we swept up the debris, she explained how each of her plants needed help but she had to ignore their siren songs. Some of them weren’t getting enough light and this plant probably fell over because it was squeezed too tight. Nowadays there wasn’t time or energy for her to commune with these transcendent beings. As we righted the corn plant, she shrugged and said you could cut off its dead leaves if you want.
Now despite my childhood track record, I’ve become something of a plant person myself. I love them deeply and associate them with my mother’s magic. But all of this happened after I moved into my own space. When I quickly agreed to trim the leaves, she was surprised. As I carefully cut through layers of brown and brittle, I felt a sense of peace grace me. It’s a mitzvah, I told myself. It’s for my parents, I’m showing my love.
Soon I was pulling out the mishmash of entangled potted plants, clearing moldy leaves and entirely rethinking the plant triangle.
A couple hours passed and this time it was me who was lost in the intimate details of the plants. A neighbor came home from work and we exchanged a cheerful greeting. The more I sat with the plants, clipping dead branches, navigating delicate foliage, I realized how much stale energy was trapped right at the entrance of my parent’s home. The plants worked hard to filter the flow of air, but every filter needs to be changed.
I could sense the energy shift beneath my fingers. The sun began to set just as I finished repositioning the fiddle leafs. Something new was flowing for all of us.
I always think in terms of opportunities. The universe presents us with offerings and we have to actively receive them. Yesterday I was given an opportunity, one I saw as service for others. Little did I know, the universe was being sneaky— I was getting a chance to heal myself.
That’s all for today.