Love and attention.
At times the words are easier to store away, remembering them only on dire or sentimental occasions than to live by.
Over the years I have heard them uttered in a variety of ways—as dialogue in TV shows and movies, lyrics in songs, pitches in commercials and passing advice from friends and loved ones.
But I associate them most with a brief encounter I had with a passing acquaintance.
Years ago I mentioned to someone that I admired a plant she had given a colleague.
I don’t have much luck with mine, I told her. It’s small and it’s dying.
They are easy to take care of, she said, checking the soil in the present she had bestowed.
Just give them love and attention, she said, walking away to get water for the dry pot.
Anyone who has struggled with houseplants or gardens knows how maddening it can be to hear someone with a divinely green thumb consider plant care as something easy and effortless.
They may as well tell you to flap your arms and fly.
How does one love a plant?
Dracaena trifasciata. Saint George’s Sword., Mother-in-law’s tongue. Snake plant, how am I supposed to love you? Love and attention, she said. What does that mean?
Over time I was mindful of the amount of water I gave. And when. I watched how it responded to placement in front of certain windows. I am not the kind of person to fuss but I did come close.
Time whooshed by as it does and in its wake there was turmoil, hardships, distractions, and joyful occasions. Life.
I do not recall the last time I moved the Dracaena or when I watered it. But I know that I do. As I write I see that it has flourished from the sickly twig it was years ago into a healthy specimen. (Maybe flourish is an exaggeration but it is not dead and it is healthy and not small).
The act of providing love and attention, of being mindful, became so innate that I no longer noticed. It became easy.
That encounter years ago with Virginia has stayed with me. It was the last time I saw her. And though today she is laid to rest her words resonate.
With love and attention life can flourish. It just takes effort until it becomes easy.