the succulent and I // repotted

Last week I repotted my succulents. I bought them from Sprouts nearly two years ago; the dark aloe in copper colored pots played perfectly into my wedding color scheme of rose gold and green. I used them as centerpieces and kept them as living souvenirs of that day. I’m not a green thumb, and I don’t think they’ve thrived under my care, but they’re still alive.

After keeping them alive – somehow – for so long, I decided to stop hoping and start learning. I looked up how to repot them; it seemed like a logical first step since they’ve grown so much. Then I learned how often to water them. Having tabs about succulents open on my web browser is one thing, but it was another completely to walk into the garden section at Walmart and ask for the correct potting soil. It was yet another to grab an old kitchen spoon in lieu of a garden spade, buckle my baby boy in the patio swing, and start scooping a few handfuls of gravel out of the alley behind our house to act as drainage in the bottom of the pot.

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They are happily repotted now. I just watered them for the first time (you’re supposed to wait about a week to let them adjust to the new soil.) I’m a little worried that they haven’t loved being transplanted, but hopefully they begin to adjust since they have more room to grow again.

Today we beginning our move up to camp for the summer. We don’t need to bring our entire household since the staff housing there is furnished, but clothing, books, baby toys, cold-weather and rain gear, hiking boots, and anything else we may need up there that we won’t need down here is going in today’s truck load. I’m feeling like my succulents must have, lined up beside the patio waiting to be transferred, at the mercy of gentle fingers and an old kitchen spoon. We’ll be living next to families I already know and love, but I haven’t known them long. I’ve gone to camp before and been in the mountains, but never this camp, never for a summer, never in this role. It seems like a  natural role to assume, but a challenging one. It will require adjustment.

Somehow, despite all my nervous anticipation, fear of the unknown, the strangeness of the “camp-wife” role, I’m excited. I flourish in the outdoors, honestly. And I’m beginning to think I’ll adjust well, having more room to grow again.

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I used to joke about being a “black thumb” – once a cactus under my care died for lack of water. But there is something about nurturing plants that feels very much like embodied hope. Perhaps even our doomed-to-decay bodies have the essence of life flowing in their very fingertips. Perhaps in a sin-broken world we can still thrive, grow, even nurture.


Grandpa used to keep two giant gardens. The front one was bordered with gladiolus, Grandma’s favorite flower. I remember the five-gallon buckets of bulbs he kept in the basement during the winter. I also remember the crates and boxes of squash, carrots, potatoes and parsnips he sent home with us in the autumn. White parsnips, fried up in a little butter? Not bad, my dad would say. I grew to like them just because of the way Dad talked about them.

My aunt kept one large immaculate garden almost as big as Grandpa’s two put together. I spent some hot summer afternoons moving too slowly down the rows of green beans, wondering when the bottom of my bucket would disappear. Harvesting the sweet peas took longer because we’d all stop to shell a few as we went, snacking on the round tart peas, almost crunchy in their raw ripeness.

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My best friend grew a garden too. Her mother was an avid flower gardener, and soon Anni had her own little strip of black wet earth, turned over and brightened with tiny moss roses. She took care of the ferns too – large green fronds nearly as tall as I was that we bruised playing hide-and-seek.

Mom’s gardens were a bit more chaotic. There were raised vegetable beds behind the house that we kids toiled over unwillingly. There were marigolds seeded along the edge of the field that came back and surprised us every year, and an odd row of gladiolus we’d planted from bulbs Grandpa gave us. We always forgot to dig up the bulbs for the winter but somehow they came back. There were a few beds around our large lawn, too, planted with tiger lilies and daylilies, sedums, irises, tulips and daisies and geraniums.

I learned what a garden could look like and somehow worked myself up to believing it would be impossible to start my own. I tend to idealize and romanticize new things, new ideas, until I’m actually afraid to try them. It happened with gardening. I love flowers, I want a garden, but I’m terrified I won’t do it well so I haven’t bothered to do it at all. This spring my mother-in-law brought me a potted arrangement of daffodils and grape hyacinths. They’ve run their course and stopped blooming already, and I finally dug up the bulbs.

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This autumn we’ll be moving to a place with a tiny garden bed, and I want to at least try gardening, even if it means starting with five daffodil and six grape hyacinth bulbs. I took my wee boy outside to play while I rubbed the dirt off the bulbs and separated them by variety. The hyacinths were already reproducing, I noticed! Some of the bulbs had little half-bulbs growing off of them.


The bulbs are in paper bags in the pantry now, labeled and waiting patiently to be planted in the pre-winter chill. And me? I’m excited. It felt wonderful to get some dirt on my fingers, let the earth touch me again. There will be flowers growing next spring that I dug up and cared for and planted, and though it’s only a few bulbs from a grocery-store arrangement, I’m still proud.