If you’ve been reading a while, you might know a few things about me:
I currently work in tech
I have a lot of plants (and two cats)
I like to learn, and I like to write about what I learn
Over the summer, I mostly want to travel and relax in the sun and do athletic things. But come fall – although I still love the outdoors and much prefer being there to just about anything else – autumn is usually a time I want to try some new learning experiences!
This year, I look forward to a music production class, a UX research certification course, and re-learning to roller skate!
I’ve been lucky enough to learn a lot through my job – I was given time and support to learn the basics of Python; I got to take a female-specific financial literacy class; I’ve learned a lot about using the Adobe suite. In fact, my job is what made me want to persue a formal certification in UX (user experience). I’m always thankful for educational support, whether it be from a company, a family member, a friend, a partner, or whatever. And all this has inspired me to keep going, keep learning!
I’m posting this today because it’s been a rough week. I’m still going through post-vacation lack of motivation as well as some lovely PMS/PMDD symptoms. Plus a COVID scare, a bunch of open projects that I lack the motivation or energy to finish, and a huge veterinarian bill.
Plants I would love to welcome into my home:
❀ pink jelly bean
❀ cast iron, especially ‘Hoshi-zora’
❀ fig tree
Pink Jelly Bean (Sedum rubrotinctum)
I just learned about these little cuties, and I love a good fun-colored plant. I’ve grown the green version before – my dad cares for that plant now. I think these are relatively safe for cats, but I’ll do plenty more research before I pull the trigger and buy one of these succulents.
I’ve been looking into larger, easier-maintenance plants as I want to travel a lot and my roommate isn’t fantastic with plants (but she is great with my cats!). Cast iron plants appear to be the perfect specimen for a home with pets and myriad lighting situations. I especially adore the Hoshi-zora variety with it’s little star-like dotting.
Finally, the good ol’ fig tree. This is an Italian household favorite and something I’d love to grow – but outside, as it’s toxic to cats. And since I don’t have much of an outdoor space right now and inflation is higher than El Capitan, this is a pipe dream for now. (If you can’t tell, I’m in a mood today.)
Also, my wonderful boyfriend bought me this Lego bonsai and I am so pumped! Talk about low-maintenance house “plants”!
Would you believe I’ve found another skull on the beach?
And this isn’t a remote beach in the off season. This is a beachgoers’ beach in the northeastern US, mid-season, not after any kind of storm.
At first I joke that finding all these skulls means I’m cursed; however as a biologist, I sort of feel blessed.
These creatures followed the path we all follow and I was lucky enough to witness the aftermath of their identities. Bones are beautiful.
You may remember the drum fish skull from my previous skull post. This skull seems similar to that one; however it still appeared to have some flesh on it and I was headed back from an evening run, so I didn’t pick it up. Sometimes it just feels right to let something to back to the sea.
I’m hoping to do a more in-depth post on this particular skull in the future. At the time, my only slightly-founded belief is another drum fish; I didn’t do any in-depth searching because I’m on vacation.
However I did bring home some beach treasures! Of particular interest to me are the bat-shaped thingamadoos you’ll see at the righthand end of my ruler here:
These things appear to be water chestnuts, likely of the species Trapa natans. (Please feel free to correct me!)
These fruits seem to fit the proper description. The most interesting part of them to me is the striping along the flattest plane, pictured at right in the fruit at the front.
These things look like alien pods.
If you were curious: these are light and mostly hollow, with something rattling about inside (the seed of the aquatic T. natans).
If I didn’t have wine-and-vacation-brain, I’d put some more thought into that. For now I’m just appreciating the strangeness of the morphology of life.
Speaking of morphology less directly related to the ocean – my latest artistic endeavor is making a pressed-flower collage of flora from my dad’s garden. I’m currently just pressing the flowers and leaves:
Sometimes looking at the beauty around us and considering our own depth of experience, I wonder if evolution is too simplified. The theory of it, I mean. Is our only push to pass on our genes? Is our only push to survive, to survive past our own consciousness in the consciousness of our closest genetic relatives? What evolutionary drive pushes us to pick up treasures by the sea? I wonder. I hope you wonder, too.
I finally decided to spend a tiny bit of money on Illustrator, and I made an !art! of my current feelings.
There it is. And yes, it’s a messy upload and there’s a watermark, so it’s not the full art. But that’s because I’m not used to sharing my art and
I’m afraid of it getting stolen. I don’t need any new drama to deal with like that right now.
Anyway, I volunteered to help out with my local parks and I got asked to do a write-up on why I love them. So here’s my write up!
The parks are where I go to be alone, but it’s probably where I feel the least lonely. They’re such lovely pieces of land – the plants, the animals, and the people I pass on the trails all bring me joy. There isn’t a better feeling to me than being out there, and I’m incredibly thankful to all stewards of that land, past and present.
With COVID, I was feeling really lonely – obviously that was a major life shift and I wasn’t able to easily just go out and see loved ones anymore. I started going on near-daily walks in the park and just the feeling when I returned was wonderful. Folks walking by would wave or smile, and the birds and plants and animals made me feel less alone. There’s just something comforting about being out in quiet well-loved woods.
Maybe I’ll share more of my art/better uploads of it in the future.
I suppose life is always up in the air; my life feels particularly up in the air right now. That’s not really a complaint, as years of therapy for OCD in particular have taught me to live with the maybe’s. It’s really just an observation, something I’m sitting with. What other choice is there? I find a lot of beauty in uncertainty, as much as it does cause me stress at times – depends on what I’m uncertain of.
There are so many creative endeavors I want to pursue. My wonderful houseplants are, I suppose, an endearing creative outlet for me; I get to care for lovely living things while arranging them to beautify my home, and it brings me much joy and acts as a bolster to my mental health. I gave my plants their first actual shower the other day (yes I literally put them in the tub and turned on the shower) and I like to play music for them and sing to them sometimes. There’s evidence that stuff really helps them. I also saw recently someone dances around the house with their plants to mimic wind, and I’ve started doing that a bit. I love to dance.
I suppose there’s this bit of my creative side that wants to make in order to be known. I want to show myself, be vulnerable; at the same time I have no desire to be vulnerable. I feel like I have a history of being too generous with others and not generous enough with myself. I’ve been the one to do a lot of emotional work.
I’m thinking of myself like a little fruit fly. If I zig-zag to land on every surface, sure I could hit a sweet flower – but I could also hit a sticky trap. I’m trying to not force a landing on “what I should do next” but rather just be okay with the uncertainty.
I’ve been doing the so-called “little things.” Making myself nice dinners; going to the farmers’ market; making art; daydreaming.
It has taken all of my self-control not to buy a 42nd houseplant! I just can’t handle learning the care of a brand new plant baby right now. Especially when I have some work to do:
I need to give my crispy wave fern diluted fertilizer. It’s becoming pale because there’s not enough nutrients in its home.
I’d like to figure out what’s going on with my peacock plant. It’s suddenly gotten really droopy, and it has been watered and the humidifier’s running. It also got coffee yesterday.
I’ll re-seed the wheatgrass and clean up some dead plants/do some pruning.
It looks like my spider plant needs a good watering.
The three air plants need a full soak watering. They got misted a few times over the week since my apartment’s air is dry.
The celery appears to need some sort of treatment, possibly neem oil. Suddenly the leaves don’t look right – little white dots and they’re off color. I’m guessing spider mites but I can’t understand yet how that could’ve happened.
I’d like to consider moving the little baby jade propagate. Now that it’s warm I’ll bet it wants to grow. I have to read up on what it might need at this little baby stage.
I have so many creative ideas bouncing around in my head; I swear, plant care and having plants around helps my brain work.
🌹 I could make lo-fi music. I even have some song titles in my head, and I know how to record and stuff. I could learn to mix; I have the time!
🌹I could sell plant propagates in cute thrifted containers. I saw someone doing this at a craft market recently and I thought it was a lovely idea. They were selling all succulents. I’d probably focus on all varieties of pet-safe plants.
🌹I could somehow share the art I’ve been making.
🌹I could continue work on the children’s book I’m writing with my dad. If only I could convince him to do the illustration…
🌹I could learn how to screen print. I’m pretty sure there are local classes.
🌹I could write a play. I’m not really a big theater fan and yet I always loved Shakespeare. And there are a few choice plays that I adore.
🌹I could do some gardening out on my building’s shared lawn. I wouldn’t plant anything edible because I’m not the one in charge of lawn care and I don’t know what chemicals are used, but some native flowers would be nice. I did seed-bomb it earlier in the spring.
I wonder if part of the loveliness of caring for plants is how easy it is to feel happy for them. It can be hard to be proud of other humans who are thriving, especially when you’re just surviving – it takes practice. But it’s easy, at least for me, to be happy when my celery grows a new shoot, or my parlor palm grows taller, or new spiderettes appear off my spider plant. It doesn’t matter what mood I’m in, those things make me happy and proud. I suppose that’s why plant care is such a labor of love; we can give them so much, and although they do it quietly they give us so much in return. They give us fresh air, calming colors, beauty and life all their own. Unlike with people, I don’t feel like my plants take from me. Of course, they literally do – they take my water, the food I give to them, carbon dioxide that I breathe out. But this is symbiosis. I’ve been hard-pressed to find that with people, although I do have it with a select few folks. And so for now I live happily among the houseplants.
You’ll read here: 🌱 Gettin’ thrifty when you’re out of money and have plants that need planting/container planting on a space & money budget 🌱 Chamomile, tulsi, basil, sage 🌱 Slug buddies 🌱 Container planting tips from a friend
Container Planting on a Spacial & Monetary Budget
Well – I helped out with a super fun planting event earlier this week and got to take home a couple of the extra plants that there wasn’t enough space for! I feel very lucky – but I’m out of money, soil, and planters at my place. So I had to get thrifty with rehoming some chamomile, some sage, some holy basil, and some un-holy basil (ha ha).
My friend taught me a useful way of container planting:
DRAINAGE. Make sure your container has drainage holes and space for the water to seep out.
BOTTOM LAYER. At the event we used peat as the bottom layer because it drains easily. At home, because I don’t have the space or money for a big bag of peat, I use rocks. When I’m out of rocks, I get thrifty with what I do have – more on that below.
UPPER LAYER(S). Good quality organic soil. I use potting soil from my favorite local nursery and spice it up with some organic powdered fertilizer. I also have added some perlite to it.
Now, as mentioned, I was out of money, out of new soil, and out of planters with proper drainage. So I opened up my hall closet and took stock of what I had available: and I found a forgotton stack of mini seedling ‘greenhouses’ that I was able to repurpose into a mini window garden container with drainage!
I took what would be the bottom of the seedling ‘greenhouse’ and filled it with perlite. This was to mimic where I would use rocks if I had any left or space between the bottom of a pot and the ground if outside, for drainage.
I inverted what would have been the top of the ‘greenhouse,’ the part that has holes for humidity control. This was to become the pot itself, where the soil and plants go.
Luckily the plants I have are pretty small, so I didn’t need a super deep container for them to live in.
Soil time. I had some old soil stuck in a jar, which I fished out, loosened, and gave a little buck-up with my organic pet-safe fertilizer.
When that wasn’t enough soil, I went and used some of those packed-peat pellets you get with cute mini grow kits, like these Save the Bees kits I have yet to plant.
Planting time! In this container went the sage and the two types of basil; the chamomile had already been planted separately.
While planting the regular basil, I found a little friendly slug! Their little antennae just get me every time. It wasn’t easy to photograph, though, as it was on the move.
But you can just see it on the very-root-bound roots of the newly freed basil plant there.
Now – we shall see if this DIY planter situation works, if these plants need more light, different soil, or whatnot. I’m historically not great with herbs, but I’m excited to try this out. Especially with the loneliness I’m feeling in my life currently – friends who I love are moving, getting married, making changes, and I’m changing too – a new challenge is a blessing.
I hope any challenges in your lives, readers, are blessings to you.
Two things I struggle with: 1. Fearing – and thus feeling – my emotions 2. Assigning an absurd amount of meaning to my emotions.
Fearing my emotions: in some ways, I’ve felt this was justified. I was an angry kid and sometimes I acted out because of overwhelming anger. But what I realize now that I’m older is that it wasn’t my anger itself that made me act out – it was that I didn’t know any healthy ways to address my anger. And, though many of my reasons to be mad were justified, adults in my life would try to explain away my anger. Trying to explain away an emotion does nothing but make it come back stronger an hour later. Because I didn’t let myself feel or felt guilty about the feelings, I started throwing things instead of throwing tantrums.
In a society that tells you “You’ll know when he’s the one,” how can we not over-assign meaning to what we feel? I never understood that assertion because time and time again I’ve “known” things that turned out not to be the case – thanks, OCD brain. Also, divorce rates are high, so that’s bullshit. There are all sorts of reasons why that’s bullshit; don’t get me started.
But anyway, how do I deal now? I share this because a few folks I was talking with earlier found this coping mechanism I use really helpful. When an emotion comes up – be it anger, sadness, joy, loneliness, whatever – I don’t sit there trying to figure out why I feel the way I do or what it could mean. I just feel the feeling.
What’s that look like?
I want to address, of course – this doesn’t apply if someone’s approaching you on a dark street corner and you feel afraid! But in a way I guess it does – you don’t need to rationalize that fear, right?
I do not always need to rationalize my feelings. I can feel them and if there’s a non-urgent, compassionate (and self-compassionate), useful way and reason to address them outside of myself, I can do that too.
Garlic mustard is a non-native plant of the brassicaceae family that has taken over much of the woodland floors in western Pennsylvania. It actually has a beautiful fragility to it; it’s very easy to weed out by the root and boasts teenie white flowers. And because it’s invasive and aggressive, I and friends of mine and local herbalists pull the plants out on our weekly walks. This is something I normally find a displeasing behavior, but the plants are edible and useful and so I save as many as I can for use in my kitchen, which makes me feel less guilty.
Anyway: at some point the other day my thoughts converged between garlic mustard and mental compulsions.
I think these two disparate things can be considered in much the same way. Nonchalant at first, unassuming and seemingly inoccuous, they can quickly take over a woodland floor or a mind. And with understanding, attention, and compassion they can be culled.
I was discussing with my therapist earlier today how some of my ruminations or intrusive thoughts/guilt have become so ingrained that even though they’ve completely changed parts of my routine, it has become hard to recognize them. I’m just now learning to disengage from them; instead of attaching excess meaning to a thought or ruminating on it, I’ve begun being able to (1) identify it as a stressor and (2) disengage from it. This is similar to my recent having been taught the nature of garlic mustard, a plant I’ve certainly hiked past time after time without knowing it’s tendency to take away from native & ntauralized plants around it.
I don’t believe any plant (or thought), as a thing, is evil – another connection between garlic mustard and the intrusive compulsion. And with regard to plants and living beings I will go into more detail on this in an upcoming post on invasive species. As for thoughts, our minds are connection machines – am I evil and heartless because deep in slumber I have a nightmare where I murder someone? No, I’d say not. But ruminating on the consideration that I might be evil because I had such a mental image is exhausting and changes nothing. Disengaging from thoughts and ruminations becomes important right here.
I’m glad I’ve learned to disengage from many of my thoughts now, and much like the garlic mustard plant I give thanks to my ability to think – I may have an overactive amygdala, but I can still be grateful for the times it’s activity has helped me and my ancestors survive.
For once I check a notification from my phone and it’s my zodiac app saying:
This period may seem overwhelming, upsetting, and intense, but it’s an important initiation. It will be hard at first, but by the end of this cycle, if you consciously choose to participate, you’ll emerge stronger and more empowered for having endured it. You’re learning what it’s like to start from scratch and build yourself anew.
I’m on my way to the coffee shop after OCD therapy. I stop for a quick mailbox check and see a beautiful card from my grandmother; it could be for Easter or my birthday, since they’re a day apart.
I tuck the card in my purse and start the sunny walk down the street to the shop. I think I’ll stop at Rite Aid as well; I need stronger hair ties. I hope they have plastic-free ones, I think. And I look forward to my latte & my locally-made juice and to the sweat on my legs after a walk on a finally-warm spring day.
I end up behind a slow walker, and I try to respectfully keep a distance but I just cannot walk so slow, and so I stop in a lot where there are usually stray cats to see if I see any, and when I don’t I decide to open the card from my grandmother.
Anyone who knows me will know I’m not religious; spiritual yes but a believer in religion, no. But the card from my very Catholic grandmother says “May God watch over you” and that is a sentiment that melts my heart. If for me ‘god’ is the universe then yes, may she watch over me. And no matter who my grandmother pictures god to be, her wish that this holy and all-knowing being might turn an eye lovingly toward my little life is a beautiful sentiment. And so, I think, may god be with me and watch over me and my grandmother and my cats and all my loved ones.
And as I’m walking I’m stopped on the street by a man with a heavy New York accent asking if I have the time to answer a simple question. Something, maybe his very friendly dog, makes me stop. And we have a generous and kind conversation because of his question:
What do you think could bring all the world peace?
And we talk about music and fresh air and nature and the playfulness of animals and his being raised Jewish and Catholic and my childhood going to Catholic schools. But we talk very little religion. Yes, this man is part of a ministry but this is unlike any other “religious” conversation I’ve ever been stopped for. Usually church and ministry and religion to me have been ways of “dutifully” pointing out all the ways in which I am “imperfect” in the eyes of some man-made God. This was nothing like that, only a reflection on how the world needs peace.
I hope I have another walk like this, and I believe I will. That’s why I am happy to call my current community home.