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Why I Like Growing Plants

Why I Like Growing Plants

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Published by Mina Chau
A story about my little sunflower.
A story about my little sunflower.

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Published by: Mina Chau on Apr 05, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/05/2012

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Why I Like Growing PlantsBy My Ngoc ToI never thought I would someday be sitting on the couch. But here I was, slouched overon a red velvet sofa across from my therapist, who perched herself next to the window. Shestared at me through her round rimmed glasses, looking meditative and concerned, and said to
me, “S
ometimes you can be too hard on yourself My Ngoc. This is not easy,
and you’v
e made somuch progress in such little time
.”
 Progress. What a strange word. What could it possibly mean? Latel
y, I’ve been able to
sleep without having night terrors in which I was being eaten by demons, possessed by demons,
or killing my own family. I wasn’t crying myself to sleep every night,
withering away withthoughts of self-worthlessness and hopelessness. I
could also “handle the stresses of daily life”and “engage in healthy social interactions” without having sudden urges to cry
or ram my headagainst the wall, which I had often felt during class. Most importantly, the thoughts of death havemore or less gone away. Whereas before, I walked around campus with an eternal stamp of deathon my forehead, thinking of ways to hang bodies whenever I walked past a tree, somehowgetting myself into near-death situations whenever I rode my bike, I can go for weeks nowwithout the thought of killing myself.Back in November, I was admitted to the hospital after having a serious breakdown andsubsequently diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. Since then, I have left Harvard with themission of starting a new life, and for the past few months dedicated all my energy to thishealing process. I made progress, for sure, but after visiting Harvard for few days in February,the depression hit me again the moment I came back home.Whereas my new job as a research assistant used to inspire me, I felt dragged down bythe repetition of work. The reality of life after college bummed me out, and I felt lonelier thanever, more separated than my friends who were doing the whole college thing. While the careand attention of my parents used to fill me with appreciation, their concern only filled me withthe conviction that there was indeed something still horribly wrong with me, something thatwould never go away.
“I’m tired of all this,” I said. “Ever since my break 
down, suddenly everything has beenabout this goddamn depression and getting better and re-accessing my entire life and trying toexplain everything to everyone. I want to just get away from it all and go to a country where noone knows me, like I did last summer
, but I know I can’t, because that would just be runningaway from my problems, so now I’m stuck 
here
. I’m trying my best, but… but I’m just so
tired 
 
of it all.”
 
Maybe you can try doing something completely unrelated, like taking a flower arrangingcourse. You know, and get
your mind off of things for a while.”
 She had a point.The moment I came home I started to look up classes that I could take. There were noflower arranging courses, but I found a list of evening courses and art seminars in Atlanta. I soonrealized that I would be paying hundreds of dollars to learn something that I could easily teachmyself at home. Also, I knew that none of the courses could compare to the rigor of the classes Itook at Harvard. So that was the end of that.Exasperated, I sat back and wondered what I could possibly do. I felt like I had just hitanother dead end, and was about to fall into cycles of self-pity when suddenly, I remembered thelima beans.
 
Earlier in the year, my oldest sister, Chi Nhung, asked me to get some seeds.
“We need some seeds, Buoi!”
she said (Buoi is my Vietnamese nick name)
, “You kn
ow,really big seeds that you can see from far away. You know,
they’re
like, really big? Do you
know what I’m talking about?”
 
Uh, y
ou mean lima beans?” I said.“I don’t know. I just need really, really big seeds.”
 
“I think they’re lima beans.”
 
“Are you sure?”“No.”
 
“Buoi, you need to be sure. This is for 
church
!” She looked at me desperately.“Yeah, I’m pretty sure.” I said. It had been ages since I had ever touched a lima bean. The
last time I remember dealing with them was when I accidentally broke the stem of my middle
sister’s
plant. After four weeks, it had grown into a thick green stub with no leaves, like adiseased finger poking out of the ground. I tripped over the pot one day and sent the thing to itsdoom. After a thorough preaching from my sister, I never touched lima beans again.Chi Nhung stared at me with her eyebrows furrowed to
gether for a while. “Okay then.Why don’t you get the beans? I don’t think I know how to get them. What are they called again?
 
“Lima beans.”
 
“Ah…
Okay, get the lima beans and bring them to church next week so I can make thevideos of the kids pretending to plant the seeds and pray for them. After that, do you think you
can grow them in time? You’re really good with plants!”
 
“Yeah, I’ll plant them.”
 
“Great!” she said, and then looked at me again, “Are you sure they’re called lima beans?”
 
“Yeah,” I said, a bit unsure, “I’m sure.”
 When we finished the rehearsal the week after, I went home and started my project. Itook out a small plastic bag, placed a wet towel in it, and then, one by one, placed the seeds onthe inside. I had done this before in the tenth grade when I grew a bunch of lettuce seeds for thescience fair. I put the seeds on the table, where they could soak up the light from the big window.
“I’m growing some lima beans,” I told Lisa
, an older friend at work. She wore some dark blue scrubs and
had a pin with the words “I ♥ CHURCH” stuck to her left breast
. We were eatingchicken wraps
. “They’re for church.” I
was waiting for her to tell her how great it was to growlima beans.
“That’s so great,” she said.“Yeah, I know
right
,” I said. “I hope they grow.”
 
They didn’t
grow. Almost a week went by, and none of the seeds had even germinated. Ieven
tried praying for the seeds, but unfortunately that didn’t make them grow any faster, so
when the day of the performance came and the pots were still bare and black, my sister and I juststuck celery sticks in the soil.We handed out the pots to all the kids who would come up, and to my disappointment,they asked me if these plants were for them. I knew that the plants would die under their care.Since I
couldn’t
bear taking prized possessions from children, I let them keep the pots.That was why, when my sister handed me a bag full of the same pots I had given away
earlier, I was quite surprised. I didn’t ask how o
r why she had gotten the plants, but I
didn’t care.
 I was glad to have them back.
 
A few nights later, I removed the seeds from the soil, curious to see if they hadgerminated. I plucked one seed from its base, and was amazed to see that it had grown a root aninch long! I quickly started checking all the other pots and squealed out loud when I saw that tenof them had grown long, thick roots. I got really excited and then forgot about it all when I took my trip back to school.Now, it all came back to me. I thought
 — 
if ten lima beans were enough to stimulate me,then I could have a whole orgasm of pleasure from growing an entire garden.I went downstairs and checked on the lima beans. They had grown stems and leaves!I drove straight to Wal-Mart and picked out all the things that I was going to grow:watermelon, cantaloupe, cilantro, broccoli, okra, and sunflowers.All the seeds went into plastic bags later that evening. I cleared the whole kitchen counterand made a place for my plants. This was going to be their home. I could have just put them in
the soil and waited a week for them to emerge, but I couldn’t do tha
t. I wanted to be there forthem right from the beginning, before they even knew what the world was, and watch them overevery step of their growth.And then I thought
 —I’ll keep a log of all of this like I did five years ago for the sciencefair. I’ll keep track of every single detail, document every change in plans. I’ll even initial and
date besides every correction that I make, just like how I have to with my job! I found an old
composition notebook. I wrote in big bold letters, “PROJECT GARDEN” on a notecard and then
stuck it to the front. I then set out to work, sketching out the outline and physical description of each seed, noting its quality, researching the growth period and temperature range. On thesurface of each bag I counted exactly how many seeds I was germinating for each type of plant,and wrote down all my plans on when to transfer each type of plant to a geoponic system. I setup three different groups in addition to a control group and was going to see what was going tohappen. I knew that this was just bullshit science, b
ut I didn’t care
. I was too happy.For two days, nothing happened. I woke up, and before I left for work, checked the bagsto see if any new growth had occurred. The seeds had only gotten squishier. Some of the darkerones, like watermelon, had stained the paper towel with a disturbing brown color.But then, on the third day, I saw a change in the broccoli. There was something whitepoking out of the outer covering. It took me five whole seconds to realize that it was actually aroot. I had my skepticisms before, because I had no idea how such any plant could fit inside sucha small seed. But now it was happening before my eyes.
“I
u
sed to be this size,” I said as I showed my mom the seeds. “
And look 
 — 
I turned out tobe so much smarter than the broccoli.
 The days went by. I made sure to water the plants every night. My hopes grew along withthem, and I became more and more hopeful about my situation in general until one day, it hit meagain. One night in late February, I lost control of my emotions and made another death wish.That breakdown, though smaller than the first, was enough to drown my spirits. The next day, I
couldn’t do a
nything. When I finally woke up, it was drizzling outside, the whole day had almostgone by, and I realized I had missed work. I went downstairs to check on my plants but couldonly notice how small and pathetic they looked, just like me.My mom saw my sa
dness and slowly came to stand beside me. “When I was little, I had a
gift, like you do, with words
,”
she said.
“There was this o
ne poem that I still remember. I
t’
sabout a little boy who was quite sad
.”
He walked into a garden and saw the little bean plants

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