A few years ago I bought my first succulent in a cute little pot from a pottery sale on my college campus. I didn’t know much about plants at the time but it caught my eye and I knew that succulents were easy to take care of so I brought it home. I quickly became invested in how this little plant was doing, and it slowly started teaching me my first plant lessons.
I added a few more succulents to my collection over the next couple of years. I never did a lot of research on how to care for plants but I did pay a lot of attention to them and googled things when I had concerns. Some time about a year ago I became much more invested in my plants and started researching house plants. The more I learned, the more plants I wanted, and the more plants I bought, the more I wanted to learn. I eventually started propagating my own plants which was both a fun adventure, and a cheaper way to have more plants. By the time I was getting ready to move to LA for Jubilee Year I had built up quite a collection of plants. And I realized that their transition to a new home and a new life was going to be just as complicated as mine.
A couple of months before a big move plants need to be extra well taken care of so that they are in good condition when, not if, they are stressed during the move. They need to be healthy enough to withstand the change.
I started noticing similar needs in myself, I needed to care for myself extra well so that I was best prepared to handle the stress, when, and not if, it came during the move. I started moving my plants to the places where they got their ideal sunlight instead of where they looked prettiest, and I started practicing yoga and meditation on a more regular basis. Together my plants and I were getting ready for the move.
Moving day came and I was fairly confident that I was ready, and so were my plants. I loaded my car and buckled the bigger plants into the back seat like little children and we were off to Los Angeles. The first couple of days we were in a liminal space - we weren’t in our old home, but we also weren’t in our new home while we attended orientation. It’s always strange when you are in the midst of a transition and you just have to pause for a moment in the process but I was more acutely aware of how temporary everything was during orientation because I had these plants that were waiting for a permanent home.
When we moved into the Hollywood house I did everything I could to make it a place where the plants could thrive. I watered the plants that needed water, gave shade to the plants that had gotten too much sun, and gave sun to the plants that had not been getting enough. Similarly, I tried to make the my new space a home where I could thrive, unpacking quickly and creating a sense of home and familiarity in this new space, giving myself the things that I needed for this transition.
The next few weeks were a time of small adjustments. Watering this plant a little bit more often, watering that one a little bit less often, trying to find the right balance in this new space and also making sure that they were recovering all right. Two of my plants really began to struggle in this time. One of the was getting too much sunlight and the leaves were getting singed. I kept moving it around the house and it took me over a month to finally find a space where it was happy. The other one was an ivy that I had rescued from my grandma’s house and that hadn’t been doing too well when I got it so I wasn’t sure it would survive the move. It vines ended up detaching from the roots a couple of weeks after moving in. Because I had been practicing water propagating plants for a while now I knew that I had a decent change of starting several new smaller plants out of this old one. I quickly went into recovery mode and was able to put cuttings into water so that they could grow into their own plants. All the preparation I put into making the plants healthy couldn’t have protected these two from these struggles, my job was just to help them learn how to thrive in their new environments.
As I was spending a lot of energy to make sure that my plants were thriving in every way after the move I realized that I needed to be putting similar energy into making sure that I was thriving. I began to reflect on what areas of my life had been getting too much sunlight, and which ones needed to be replanted in water because they couldn’t continue to survive in soil. Just because I don’t show my needs though yellowing leaves doesn’t mean that they are real and need to be addressed.
Now that we are a few months in I am happy to say that my plants and I have survived the transition well. The ivy that needed to be turned into cuttings to be saved is now 16 individual happy plants. I’m still trying to take cues from my plants as we continue our life at the hollywood house. As the days are getting shorter, the plants need less water because they don’t get as much sunlight. The needs of plants change with the seasons, and I’m pretty sure that the needs of humans change with them too.
Voices of Service
These are reflections from corps members and alumni of Jubilee Year and the Episcopal Urban Intern Program. They cover topics ranging from the sun, fun and friends in in Los Angeles to the uncensored experiences of serving vulnerable populations in our beautiful city. These are Voices of Service. For more, go through our archives below