A couple of times a year, I convince myself I’m a plant lady and I come home with a trunkful of plants to a skeptical husband. He raises his eyebrow and, each time, I promise it will be different. This will be the time I not only keep them alive, but this will be the time I become the plant lady whose home is filled inside and out with flourishing greenery. Usually, within three weeks, I’ve killed every last plant and my dear husband quietly disposes of them while I pretend I don’t notice.
Until the aloe vera.
Last summer, my grandma gave me an aloe vera plant she transplanted, and she sent me home with it and with a promise I wouldn’t be able to kill this one.
I was hopeful; my husband not so much.
For three weeks the plant looked healthy and green. Then, about 22 days after arriving on our porch, it turned brown. Before my husband completed the usual ritual of dropping it in the trashcan, I called her, described the state of the plant, and asked where I went wrong.
She listened and then responded gently, “It’s possible you’re over-watering it.”
What? Too much water? How was that even possible? I felt like lots of water would be necessary to keep plants alive.
I trusted her assessment though and I hesitantly made some adjustments. Within a week, the aloe vera plant returned to a shade of healthy green.
It seems counterintuitive, but apparently, for roots to securely anchor and flourish, they need less water on the surface so the roots are forced down deep.
I feel like that’s an accurate depiction of life the last 10 months. There’s been a lot of digging deep. Like many families, mine was stretched in ways we haven’t been before. We agonized over decisions, grieved lost events and opportunities, watched as people we cared for struggled, and we faced a lot of unknowns together. It took more energy, patience, and trust than other seasons. We had to dig deep.
Some of the things I used to rely on for daily nourishment ceased and it forced my roots down deeper. There’s been a lot of growth below the surface. Uncomfortable growth.
I’ve also had a lot of time to assess what daily nourishment I really need to thrive and what I relied on because it was comfortable and convenient.
One thing I learned after some reading is that the roots anchor the plant, store reserved nourishment, and are able to absorb nourishment from a greater area. Eventually, the whole plant benefits from deeper roots and the plant is hardier.
I’m hopeful that this season of digging deep is drawing to a close. A season of ease and comfort sounds pretty welcoming right now, but I’m also grateful my roots grew a little deeper. Most everyone has been stretched in tough ways recently and we’ve come through it a little stronger, we’ve been anchored a little deeper, and our subsequent fruit will be a little sweeter as we move forward.