Thursday, June 6, 2013

My Plant is Dying Way Too Close to My Graduation and Now I Think I'm In Trouble Because It's All About Me

My plant is dying.

(I know -- it's been a while. Let's catch up: Francis -- yep, he's keeping it real, isn't he? But what about the talk to the Sisters? I know -- doesn't make any sense. Someone's not advising him well there. They are not the problems in that situation.

Game of Thrones: Last week was CRAZY TOWN.  I don't ever want to go to a wedding again.  Or if I do, and someone starts to shut the doors, I am out of there. I don't care if I'm presiding, I'm bolting.  And don't you dare, DON'T YOU DARE play any of that Lannister music, 'cuz I will LOSE IT. My friend has a cat named Lannister and I'm thinking it needs to go.

Oh, you don't watch Game of Thrones? Riiiiight. Never mind.

Obama: Yep.

That's all I got there. Yep.  Also, drones.  Can we please, please stop with the drones? And dude -- can we freaking have some gun control? JESUS.  COME ON.

I agree, Arrested Development was not very good. Kind of bummed me out, too. But did you see the end of Scandal? I KNOW, RIGHT?

And Gatsby? Those critics were crazy, no? A pox on all their houses.)

My plant is dying.

This plant looks like the Tree of Life next to my plant. 
I could live on its fruit for a year.
(It doesn't have fruit? Fine -- I could drink its chlorophyll for a year. Happy?) 

It's been happening for a while, actually. I noticed it about six weeks ago. My little ficus bonsai, a gift when I first came to Los Angeles three years ago, which had blossomed in the last year especially into this green leafed wonder, suddenly shriveling. Today it has three leaves left.  It's close to death.

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised.  It's been that kind of year.  In the fall, my superior from New York died, dropped dead on Election Day. (He'd have been pleased with the result.) Two months ago, my mentor in Australia, long suffering, dead.

Plus, here I am, at the end of what I hope is the end of my studies. A week from today, I get my MFA from UCLA.  Three years of study, about 8 scripts later, here I am.

And my plant is dying.

Maybe it's metaphorical. I'm in the middle of a big transition, letting go of a big source of life, so my plant is dying. (Because, as you know, the world is really just an instrument to tell us what we need. If you can feel the center of gravity shifting in your life right this instant, it's because it's recentering on me.)

Honestly, it feels sort of foreboding.  My life here continues, even grows.  And so my ficus should grow with me, right? But instead it's going to be dead, well and truly dead, in just a matter of days.

Can life grow out of death? You'd think I'd know the answer to that, but I don't. I was recently writing someone at work about a book they're having me read.  I wrote, "I'll get to 'Catholicism' soon." And then I realized, at this rate that might be the title of my autobiography.

The gardener I've been talking to tells me yes, from seeming death can come life.  I just need to let these last few leaves fall, let it wither all the way, then cut everything that has grown -- I'm literally wincing as I write this -- cut everything until all that's left is this little stump where there's still green under the bark -- and put it in a hot house and wait for it to grow.

Maybe it is a metaphor for my life. Maybe this graduation is a sort of dropping of leaves, so there's room for something else to grow. ("Maybe the world does revolve around me." What a surprise.)  The gardener tells me my plant is dying because I overwatered it.  Maybe it's time for me, too, to dry out in the desert.  A bit of Tatooine after three years of Cloud City. I could even go to Tashii Station and pick up some power converters.

They say "Dry ground makes the roots grow deeper". Okay. Thanks. I guess.

In the meantime, my little plant, my first plant, first anything really, which has accompanied me these three great years, watched quietly as I've been shredded and grown, sits on my patio, soaking in the gloom of an LA June, fighting for life, and failing.

What will happen? Will it come back?

I guess we'll see.


Carol said...

I suppose I'm way too old for "Game of Thrones," and having suffered through reading The Great Gatsby in high school, have no desire to see the movie. I despise drones to attack people, or even for the purpose of surveillance, but the idea of a drone-delivered pizza is intriguing, and quite practical: No more pizza guys getting mugged by their customers. The FAA will just have to get on board with this, as they currently do not allow commercial use of drones in US air space. However, as an old skydiver, I can tell you that the Falcons Against Anything are one of the most ossified of federal agencies. You would not have believed the furor they caused when recreational skydivers transitioned from round canopies (a la D-Day) to low-porosity square airfoils that are in use today, and I'm not even going to get into the vagaries of their attitudes toward wing suits!

However, I'm pretty good at plant resuscitation. Your garden person is probably right, it sounds like overwatering. Bonsai are notorious for handling overwatering very poorly.

In addition to the "trim it all back" advice you've gotten, pull it right out of the pot/dish you have it in, and take a couple of sticks and loosen all of the soil around the roots. The soil will probably have a pretty musty odor to it (that's mold, from overwatering; don't worry, it won't make you sick unless you have a severely compromised immune system.) Examine the roots: Healthy ones will look whitish. Diseased ones will look slimy. Cut the diseased ones off. Using a different pair of scissors, or sterilizing the same pair with some rubbing alcohol, trim the healthy root tips.

Scrub out the old pot and throw away all of the old soil. Make sure you rinse the pot out very well. It's a good idea to put boiling water into it for a few minutes to disinfect it.

Now you're ready to replant the rather sorry-looking stump. Put some pebbles in the bottom of the pot. Add potting soil, and jiggle the stump around a little to get air pockets out of the soil. Water just until the soil is slightly damp. Keep an eye on it, and don't re-water until the soil is dried out.

In a couple of months you should be rewarded with new growth. Pick up some copper bonsai wire, and twist and trim away to your heart's content. Never trim off more than a third of a branch at a time, and until the plant is really well re-established, confine trimming and training to once or maybe twice a year at the most. If you really want an impressive looking display, get a little porcelain pagoda or Japanese gardener statuette to place in the dish under the tree. As you repeatedly trim away at the tree, you will notice that the leaves will begin to shrink to a size proportionate with the miniaturized tree.

Remember, these are miniaturized trees, not houseplants. They do best in a temperature and light environment that the full-sized tree would tolerate well. Since my collection of bonsai are primarily from native-grown trees in New York State, mine summer in the house, and go outside on a sheltered porch in the cold weather. So you'll have to research what conditions normal sized ficus like, and try to reproduce those conditions in your new digs.

I thought I'd give this little tutorial just because I've seen what bonsai go for in nurseries: Spending that kind of money on a plant is a little over-the-top for me!

Shelly said...

Deep breath! Yep, gardener is right. And ficus are notorious for disliking change . . . tending to drop their leaves at the slightest hint of "environmental stress". Overwatering drives out the oxygen from the soil so the plant can't "breath". You think you're taking care of it, giving it something life-giving, and yet that life-giving thing is actually pushing away the other very important thing needed for life. Metaphor? Sure is. What have you loaded up on, what good have you been consuming - which has perhaps been overwhelming or pushing out an equal or even greater good in your own life? Desert time is good for us all: both ficus tree and graduate student ;-)!

Michelle said...

My ficus dropped its leaves and looked like it was on the verge of death when I was writing my PhD thesis, when I came up for tenure and when my first child arrived. I swore it sensed my stress. When my oldest started driving, it finally gave up the ghost - way too much stress. (In truth I think mine died of lack of water, a proxy for my stress.)

No HBO, so haven't seen Game of Thrones 3 yet, but I read the books and was floored. Scandal gave me nightmares (but I watched the whole season?).

Pradeep Sharma said...

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My Journey With Candida said...

Oh my... it sure is dying. So sorry.... Maybe if you cut it back, It will survive

Marsha Turner said...

I like how you thought that the dropping of leaves from your plant can be a sigh with what coming for you in future. It like everything you completed something like phd dissertation, a leaf would fall because you overcome it. Anyway, how are you now? I hope everything went well after your graduation.