If I want my life, my world, to be better tomorrow then I have to do something differently today than I did yesterday. Hope isn’t enough, wishing won’t make it so, complaining won’t change a thing out there.
No way to get around it, change is hard for us Homo sapiens. Our brains are wired in thought paths as hard to get out of as a NYC subway going full speed on its usual route. It’s how we’re built. The nerve pathways connected cell-to-cell that transmit the electric energy to make us tick get stronger with use. And the more we think a particular thought, the easier it becomes to go there – without even making the conscious choice. In Buddha’s Brain, Dr. Rick Hanson explores mental habits in fascinating detail.
I always say I love change, but the underlying truth is I enjoy a certain kind of change – around me, outside of me. I’m excited by things like wind storms, thunder, new writing projects, new faces, a change in direction at work. But the other kind of change, things I could, should – but usually don’t – change in my thoughts and behavior are as hard for me to reshape as for anyone else.
Every spring I gardened. Before I could even walk I’m sure I was crawling around after my mom, making a mess, horrifying her by eating dirty poisonous things I shouldn’t – and later as a child I started doing most of the gardening for the family. The garden and the apple trees around our place fed us all winter long. Corn, squash, beans, tomatoes, basil, carrots, melons – you name it, if it could stand the rocky clay soil of the Catskills, I planted it.
So naturally, every spring I want to plant things. My brain says plant, plant, plant. Buy seeds, dig in the dirt, mark off the rows, sift out the rocks, plant seeds, sit in the sun and watch them grow. Sometimes living in New York City, that isn’t possible. In the East Village we had community gardens, that was nice, in Jackson Heights, we don’t. And I do kind of feel like crying some sunny spring mornings about that. But this week I transplanted – not the same as planting in the earth like I did all my childhood years – but inside.
The plants – like the little mint below – look so happy after unfurling their cramped knotted roots it’s hard not to smile back at them and say, yes, I’m kind of a transplant myself you know? We don’t touch the earth most days here in the city, but we’re growing and alive, the plants and I.
For more about a love of plants, check out my novel Brindle 24, where people still talk to their plants (and listen to them, too):
Brindle 24, the last day in the life of a town.