Saturday, August 19, 2006


In our flat on the Newmarket Road we have a lovely bay window. It looks out, unfortunately, onto a rather dismal football ground car park. The light in the bay is beautiful and a number of plants on the windowsill appear to thrive. Except for one, a Fichus Benjamin, with weak straggly stems and crinkled leaves. It appeared dried, wizened and unhappy. Last year, at the point where Autumn is no longer Autumn, but Winter is not yet Winter, it began to lose leaves. Not just a small loss, but a serious defoliation. Something was wrong, but what were we to do?

It was still in the Homebase pot it was bought in, complete with a useless Plant Care label stuck into its soil. I decided to take unilateral action. The pot was too small, it needed a larger size. When I removed the old pot the evidence was conclusive. Every fraction of soil space was bound in the stranglehold of white root tendrils. I bought a new pot, some non peat based compost and a bottle of plant reviving tonic. Within a few weeks there were new leaves sprouting, it seemed my instincts were right and here was the proof. All was saved.

All was well until the early Summer when the leaf drop started again, this time it really looked like the end. I decided it was getting too much direct intense heat, so I moved it to a position where it got more broken sunlight. The leaf fall did not stop. David suggested I checked on the internet and find out what it really needed. The site on the internet said Fichus Benjamin dislikes two things; being repotted and being moved. So much for going by my instincts ! What it likes is being sprayed regularly with water. If you have leaf drop begin spraying it regularly with water. Do not over water the soil. Wait until the leaves stop falling and then feed regularly. This seems so far to have worked. The leaf drop has largely ceased and luscious green leaves are beginning to become established.

I’ve been reflecting and finding parallels with my own recent process. A few years ago I was pot bound. Entangled in a web of self discipline and self limiting views. Unhelpful habitual ways of thinking about myself, some of which went way back. Leaves were dropping off slowly as the stream of my formal spiritual practices dried up. Since then I’ve done quite a bit of self exploration, listening to myself, becoming more aware. Looking for what nutrients I could find. I’ve changed my lifestyle and left behind a lot of things. Carrying forward with me anything that I knew was important. All with the intention of finding a way of being more content and less restless. What I needed to do to alleviate the physical stress symptoms, for my body to cease aching. Pains that were telling me to stop doing whatever it is that it’s had enough of.

You see plants are straightforward you just go to the internet and get the correct information and apply it. So far I’ve changed heaps of things, and though they’re all in the right ball park they’re not it completely. Some essential pieces seem to be missing from the jigsaw.

I know I’m just responding to my impatience, feeling restless and anxious. After nearly three years of soul searching ,followed by all sorts of upheavals and changes, I still haven’t conclusively sorted this out. I’m beginning to think that perhaps I never will. I’ll be fifty next year. That’s half a century of growth and development. I really ought to know what I need in order to flourish. Sometimes I wish I was a plant, life is so much simpler.

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