Our theme for the month of February is “plants.”

When we redid our hideous bathroom, we put a cheap Target floating shelf above the toilet. It’s already kind of dinged up, on the corner, and the screws that came in the install kit didn’t quite go in all the way, so if you look up from below you can see them sticking a quarter inch out. But still, it’s my favorite feature of that room: it’s got a gangly pothos on the left side and a big, glorious snake plant in the middle.

That snake plant came from a single blade given to us, if indirectly, by a Detroiter Nathan knows. They worked on a plant sale fundraiser together filling dollar store glass bowls with clippings from her living room menagerie, and one of the extras ended up in our house. The snake plant didn’t like its home, so we put it in a terracotta pot and it’s just kept growing and growing, from one blade sprouting up shorter tongues that have now reached almost the height of their progenitor. It’s magnificent. And since Alex, Annaka, and Josh announced this month’s theme, I’ve been looking at the vegetation in my home and particularly this, my favorite plant. It’s my favorite because I wanted a snake plant for a long time, but the full-size ones are expensive, so I never bought one outright. And my ruminations led to this: that our plants are big and thriving now for just two reasons—stability and time.

You’ll see where this is going. The whole plants-as-metaphor thing is tired, I know, but it’s potent. We have this big, lovely plant because we’ve lived in this condo for more than three years now, and we have—or, more accurately, Nathan has—watered it faithfully for two of those years. We didn’t notice it growing, really, or count the new sprouts as they emerged. There are eleven tall ones now. A few tiny guys, too.

But, to complicate things, here’s a plant metaphor that works in the other direction. I’ve got a tropical tree of some kind next to my desk in the bedroom, the coldest room in the house, where icy draughts slip around the silicone caulking we just redid and the old t-shirt I rolled up to insulate the window well. That room also gets the most light, which we thought it would like, but the leaves keep turning yellow and then brown from the tips inward; I chop the dead ones off to preserve the illusion of health and then another one goes, and another. The real problem, according to a plant expert friend, is not so much the cold—it’s lived happily enough through a few Michigan winters in that room—but that it’s rootbound. It needs more space for all the subterranean tendrils that support it. The plastic pot it came in is not cutting it anymore.

I haven’t decided which metaphor to take to heart at the moment. Both seem apt in very different ways. In fact, they might be of a piece—the stability, and time, of living in this same spot in Southeast Ann Arbor has helped me grow, and it’s true too that my graduate-student-life is beginning to feel ill-fitting. Which is okay. It’s just come a little earlier than would be strictly convenient, since I’ve got a year-and-change to go. Maybe the lesson is that what has served me for a season will not always serve me. Maybe it’s that sometimes it’s hard to see our growth, and it’s also hard to know, sometimes, what exactly needs to change.


  1. Chad Westra

    Potent metaphors, indeed—I appreciate your perspective.

    Also, kudos on your thriving snake plant! We recently said goodbye to ours. After having a bunch of blades languishing in water for months, they never took when we finally potted them.

  2. Alex Johnson

    You have my eternal thanks for putting the word caulk in my head and allowing me to get the Wordle for yesterday in 2 tries <3


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