Root Bound…

Photo by Mary Dessein
My jade plant is blooming. My jade tree rather, as it is bigger than either of my children were when they started second grade. I’ve had the plant for close to thirty years. Seventeen years ago, it was in a three inch diameter ceramic planter, a swan to be exact. Now it is busting out of a foot tall, eighteen inch diameter pot.

I believe it is root bound. When other plants I have started blooming after years of not, I was told it was because they were now root bound. Really? In looking at articles on root bound plants, it is reportedly a negative thing for the plant and ought to be rectified.

Yet, my jade tree is blooming elegant little white flowers at least once a year, starting about five years ago.

My sansevieria (snake’s tongue or snake plant), which I got off a clearance table at the drug store in a tiny square starter pot sixteen years ago and is now hundreds of times larger, filling a foot tall, twelve inch diameter pot, currently blooms a couple times a year that I know of. Some times the stalk of blossoms is inside the forest of leaves and I don’t see it until much later. Both of my asparagus ferns, sprengeri and densiflorus, which are not ferns nor asparaguses, bloom with wee white flowers and tiny berries. After decades of no blooming.

My hoya. Oh my gosh, the hoya carnosa blooms three or four times a year. Lovely dangling clusters of blossoms whose lush fragrance fills my home.

This root bound concept and it’s physicality. Root bound could mean I don’t venture out or try new things, don’t go new places, or experiment with new ideas. It also could be where I am now: having been many places and done quite a bit over the last twenty-five years, and then having lived a quiet, low activity life in 2017, my root bound-ness was solidifying to allow me to bloom.

I had several gigs in the last three months, challenging me to expand my repertoire, and spend time with my performance pieces of music and storytelling.

And myself.
The quiet time, seeming inertia compared to my previous level of daily and weekly activity, was a puzzlement to me. Then my jade tree blossoms sprung out and began to open, reminding me how I felt enervated by the gigs, by interacting with the people involved, and the preparation time.
That quiet time was as if I had become root bound: I nested, wrote daily in my Artist’s Way journal, stayed up late and slept late, dialed back on my real estate activity and ventures, read novels, and even took an occasional nap. I did all the life stuff of paying bills, doing my podcast, going to various meetings and all, yet I was quiet.
That quiet time was me becoming more stable in this chapter of my life. More confident in who I am. More sure of my talents. Forming healthy detachments. Resolving ambiguities about what I want now, what gives my life quality, and what nurtures me.

What nurtures me and forming healthy detachments are two things that have eluded me during my life prior to now – I learned as a child not to do those two things. The belief presented was “always take care of others, it is selfish to care of yourself.”

Yet when two friends, I thought to be close friends, walked away from me without a word, healthy detachment lessons appeared. I felt the loss of the friendship yet have been able to move away from having to fix the problem; the problem which I was unaware of and is not mine. And to be able to see these people on occasion and be present in that moment with them, carrying no negative baggage forward.
My two children are now young adults with life partners they have chosen; one lives thousands of miles away from me. Healthy detachment. I am still deeply connected to them, yet have no responsibility to fix their problems and challenges. I listen, and offer advice when asked.

Nurturing myself. My, oh my. Maybe it is not selfish to prioritize what I need and want, perhaps it is even the best choice I can make. Yes, there are endless needs of millions of people in the world as well as there are starving children in China (which is what I was told as a child every time I did not eat every single morsel on my dinner plate. Both my parents having been raised in the Great Depression, I get where their reasoning was coming from; I am also pretty sure that statement has unintentionally caused many an eating disorder by overriding kids’ natural self-regulation and limits.) However, my job at this time is to take care of me. I donate each month to multiple causes, as well as volunteer. Laugh-out-loud! I am still justifying nurturing myself and not being selfish!

Four years ago on a landmark birthday of mine, my drunkard’s bottle cactus (hatiora) exploded in small yellow blossoms; the plant looked like it was covered in a beaded hairnet. It had not bloomed in the previous twenty-plus years since my sister gave me a tiny fingerling of a start off her plant. It is now a thousand times larger. And in a pot it is nearly growing up and out of, the pot is about a quarter the size of the cactus. Its hundreds of tiny branches hang elegantly several inches. Nowadays, my drunkard’s bottle cactus blooms each year around my birthday.

There is a lot to be said for being root bound.