Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Kindness of Strangers

the blinds are closed because it's dark out
This; is Steve. Steve is a hot thai pepper from Park Seed.  Which happened to be on sale last year when  when I got it into my head that I wanted something green in my dorm. I bought a bunch of fun herbs and about 25 pepper seeds for around ten bucks.

Steve and his siblings were sitting on the hot south facing window sill during my field-school days. I would water them in the morning before I left and around 6:30 or 7:00 when I got back in the evening. All I could really do for them was  hope that they survived.

Unfortunately everything withered except for one little dwarf basil and Steve.  They were just too little for the level of neglect I was forced to give them.

Steve spent the entire summer with me and in Vancouver, and then Burbank Washington. At the time I didn't know that I would be to bring my car south with me so for the entire summer he stayed in a little pot so that he could fit on my carry on bag on the way back.  Even after all this time he's still stunted looking.

sorry for the crappy pics,  I had to use a camera phone
Here's his old pot next to his current one.

When I brought him indoors with the frost last fall and he suffered from a pretty serious fruit fly infestation. Now several weeks after the infestation has gone  I'm fairly certain that I've watered him too much and he has gotten root rot.  The poor thing has just had a terrible life.

But he's a trooper and I think he'll survive until the local community garden opens up and I can put him in the stinking ground.

I know it may seem silly, but I have an emotional attachment to this plant, and every other plant I have ever grown.  I treat them as pets. I know that they aren't self aware, and they have no brain, but starting a seed indoors is almost like signing a contract.

You are taking them out of their environment to put them in your house. You are giving them a life  and taking that life in your own hands.  It is your responsibility to see that they are at the right temperature, lighting, and get the right amount of water because if  you fail in those responsibilities you are denying this plant the two things it desires; to mature and to propagate.

These desires are written into their DNA, and although they probably don't feel about them the same way  any conscious creature does, this is essentially what their entire existence is built up around. Their purpose in life (the life you gave them) is to live.

When I neglect a plant, whether indoor or out I feel like I am breaking this promise. As if I was lying when I put the tiny seeds into the damp paper towel and kept it on the underside of my internet router because that was the only warm spot in my entire dorm. Brought them into the world only to laugh and take it away.

If  plants had feelings (and awareness of their surroundings) I imagine that they would feel supremely betrayed.

That's why the two cantaloupe seeds I started for fun had to go in pots, and why I cried a little bit when I found out the verbena I had at home had fallen off the patio and had been completely forgotten about (I was also on my period, but let's pretend that didn't matter).  I held life in my hands, and let it wither.

Silly. I know.  But as I kid I was supremely uncomfortable with my emotions and plants were a safe thing to love.

Now to the reason for this post's title.

As with all things on the internet there is a forum for growing green things, and on this forum last fall there was a seed exchange specifically for peppers and tomatoes. I had one little packet kicking around that I was thinking of maybe kinda sorta trying to turn into something so I sent it in instead.

I got fourteen packets back.


Suffice it to say that this was absolutely awesome.

And there were even pepper species I had never even heard of before.  I felt like a kid on Christmas morning who woke up to find out that Santa Clause is real after all.

For a long while I was worried that there wouldn't be enough space to even try two or three varieties, but then I discovered the magic of community gardens  which are almost within walking distance.

I like the idea of being the hot pepper girl.  I like the idea of having a garden for the first time since one of the leaves off of my big sister's monster bean plant stuck to the back of my shirt and I nearly couldn't get away. And it is thanks to the good people at GardenWeb that I am going to get this chance.

I am very grateful to them.

Now all I need is a job.

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