October 18, 2020

I keep buying houseplants. I have asked myself why. Maybe I’m doing what the pagans did when they brought evergreen branches into their homes during winter: an act of sympathetic magic meant to protect the life force of the trees until spring. But I don’t think it’s that. Maybe it’s the original reason: I need to share the space between these walls with something, anything other than myself that breathes. I still think it’s partially that. But I think now it’s closer to the days I spent sitting by my father’s bedside while he lay in a coma, and a whisper of digitized music, like the sudden opening and closing of a noise-making toy, kept punctuating the air. The first time I heard it, I thought it was one of many alarms erupting from one of the many machines he was hooked up to, but no, the nurse said, “They play that every time a baby is born.” Right, yes, I had forgotten: because good things happen in hospitals, too. A lot of babies were born in those three days, or maybe that’s just how I remember it—the claustrophobic pulse of unknowing interrupted, so often, by some signal from another sphere of existence. But those days, it was death in the room with me, and these days, the death is out there, and I am staying inside, I am told (I’m not sure any longer what I believe), to keep that death from coming to me. Oh, but it will come, has come already, the life we once had leaking out of us all as we wait, wait in the pulse of unknowing. And that is why I keep buying houseplants—some signal from another sphere of existence. Some whisper that reminds me it’s all intertwined: life and death, blood and leaf, and we can watch one part of it crumble, and still, the world goes on, merciless in interrupting our tragedy with beginning, a green still worthy of a song.

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