There’s very little plant magic in my family.
Family lore has it that my great-grandmother kept a beautiful garden. If it’s true, she certainly let those skills die with her.
So, I grew up in a house that had no plants in it, with a garden we mostly left to itself. You see, leaving it alone was far safer than endangering its existence by our meddling. Look at it the wrong way and the whole thing was liable to go up in flames.
There was a small bit we carefully pulled the enterprising dandelions out of, but the rest thrived or died as it could without any human interference beyond children’s feet as my brother and I galloped to Narnia on talking horses.
Now and then we’ve attempted a houseplant since then. They mostly lived short, but hopeful lives before pining away for reasons unknown.
My husband, on the other hand, knows about plants. He’s not afraid of them and can actually tell you helpful things like what the numbers on the front of fertilizer bags mean. I’d never hoped to be inducted into such mysteries.
One day on a trip to the local hardware store, he caught me nervously handling a small houseplant–a tiny basil plant, just putting out a few new leaves, bright green and fragrant.
“Why don’t you get it?” he suggested.
“Because I’m cursed! I’ll kill it. I’m just a bad plant parent. It will live a better life here in the store. What if we buy it and then it dies?”
He shrugged. “Then we’ll buy another and you can begin again.”
My basil plant lived a short but glorious life, before succumbing to a fatal basil fungus that–I maintain–was not my fault.
It died and, I found, everything was still alright. I began again with another plant in another window.
It strikes me that artistic works-in-progress and houseplants have something in common:
We start with nothing, just a seed of an idea and we raise it up with care and hope into something beautiful. While we can do our best for them, we can’t always control how they live or die.
They might flourish or just whither suddenly as the spring of inspiration dries up. Maybe they didn’t grow deep enough roots or perhaps they were getting the wrong amount of sunlight or you forgot to water it as much as it wanted to be watered. Perhaps you didn’t do your research or there wasn’t enough plot to support your idea.
No matter how much you loved it, it wasn’t a pet or a child. It wasn’t something irreplaceable. There are more basil plants in the world and you can always write another story. Maybe this one didn’t work out but–with care, hope, and a little love–perhaps the next one will.
So don’t give up.
Instead, rejoice in the forgiveness of the universe and . . . begin again.