In February, I took three cuttings from a pilea and put them into shot glasses full of water. I watched as they sprouted roots. I watched as the tiny leaves grew incrementally taller. I watched as the roots curled to the shape of the glass. I put a photo of them on the internet so others could watch too.
Before I left for England I thought, I should really pot these. But then I thought, I’m only gone for three weeks. I’ll do it when I get back.
But four months later I had not returned.
In that intervening time I thought a lot about death. I admit that a lot of those thoughts were personal – the death that affected me. But often the thoughts were bigger too – the political, international, the scale of death we hadn’t known in our lifetimes. And then very occasionally, in moments of clarity I’d think, I really should have potted those cuttings. Those cuttings are definitely dead.
But strangely, when I came home they were alive. They hadn’t grown or changed. They weren’t dead but they weren’t quite living either. They were just held there, in stasis. Like all of us. Like a metaphor.
So I potted them.
And now, with sunlight and soil and room to stretch their roots, they are growing. Their leaves like little green ping-pong bats, getting taller and larger every day.
But one cutting is slower to take than the rest. When I realised it wasn’t growing, I took a photo of it and now every day I compare the real thing to the photo to look for movement. Unlike its friends it doesn’t like new environments. It doesn’t like adaptation or change or overcoming adversity.
I try to encourage it anyway. I say, you can do it. I say, you’re my favourite. I say, you’re the one that’s most like me.
A version of this post was sent by email on the 27th September 2020 as part of Internet Care Package – a weekly memoir project in the form of a newsletter. It also includes links to the best things I’ve found on the internet each week and occasional updates on my theatremaking. This blog is a select archive of those emails. Subscribe to get them right in your inbox.