The Sweet Pea

I kill plants. Not on purpose, of course, but I tend to fret over them and over-water them, drowning their roots because I’m too afraid that I’m going to dry out their roots. My boyfriend makes fun of me for this because I keep trying to grow things even though I inevitably kill them. The truth is is that I like watching plants start from a tiny speck of a seed, uncurl like a tadpole hatching, stretch their little green fingers and stand up in the dirt. It makes me happy and so, despite my failures at keeping things alive, I’m pretty damn good at making things sprout – it’s after that that things get a little rocky. Over the winter I tried to grow grass and lavender in a big yellow pot. “Why are you trying to grow something in the dead of winter,” Pat said to me. I didn’t have an answer for him, other than I wanted to. Guess what? It died. For a long time we had the pot of dirt sitting in the house with the lifeless shells of what used to be plant matter in the middle of it. We used it as a doorstop. I just threw it away last weekend.

About a month ago, I planted some sweet peas. I’ve always loved sweet peas. My dad’s dog was named sweet pea – a huge great dane/st. bernard mix. She was really a big sweet pea. And my mom always grew sweet peas in our backyard in California. They remind me of summer and of home. She sectioned off a part of the garden just for them. A green field that sprouted into purples, hard pinks, soft pinks and reds. They looked like a million butterfly wings.

I loved the sweet peas and I loved the snap dragons we had too. What I loved most about them as a girl, though, was the snap dragon’s small mouths. I’d wander around pinching their plump little heads and pretend they were talking. They were fierce and soft at the same time. My mother’s garden was alive.

I don’t have a garden, but I hope to soon. The only things I can grow lives in pots or sometimes don’t live very well with my track record. So when I planted my latest project, I wasn’t expecting much. But I got a little kit at Target and planted them in the tin can it came in, watered them diligently for the first week and then we went on vacation for a long weekend and I forgot about them. And then a week later, I remembered that I had forgotten them and knew it was too late. I went to the back porch expecting to see their beautiful green sprouts curled up like¬†shriveled¬†old ladies – dead.

But they weren’t! They were still alive and larger than I’ve been able to grow anything from a seed before. So far I’ve kept them in the sun, saw one leaf turn yellow and fall off. I quickly threw it away so they other plants wouldn’t be frightened. Keep growing, I tell them, keep growing! The hardest part for me is to not over water them. It’s like an itch I can’t scratch. I try so hard not to kill them and water is the only part of the process I can control and I nurture them too much. But so far, so good. When I think about watering them, I don’t. And then do it the next day or so. I let them be and I think that’s what made them grow so tall in the first place.

It’s fun to watch them grow up. What I’ve noticed about them in particular is how they cling to each other. They all started as single plants stuck in the dirt, they wobbled at times and I put a stick in to help them stand up tall. And the next day, I saw their little green fingers clinging to that stick for dear life. How do they know how to do that? They are just plants after all, yet something in their nature tells them to hang on. And now as I look at them, they have started to cling to each other like a family or like friends. I’ve started to wonder if maybe sweet peas are more like people. Or perhaps people are more like sweet peas. Either way, we all need support and a hand to hold to keep us upright.

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