Nature and Nurture

A brand new plant sits on my kitchen window-sill. My 7 year old brought it home from Beaver Scouts when it was nothing more than a bulb in soil 4 weeks ago. We had no clue as to what plant it was as his section leader had forgotten to bring the care sheets with her.

Nevertheless, we popped it on the window-sill in the light and gave it water every couple of days. (I at least know these are the basics of a plant needs.)

And it wasn’t long before it began to show the first glimpse of a shoot, and from there another appeared and now it looks like this:

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Soon afterwards, the care sheet was sent to me via e-mail and we were told the plant was a sparaxis. Not a species I’ve heard of before, but apparently it should eventually look like this:

Or at least one of these. No idea what colour it will be. But if I look after it and care for it as instructed, it will hopefully flower and resemble one of the above, year after year.

“So, Joanne, you’ve suddenly become a horticulturist have you? Your blog is going to be littered with plant-based posts?”

Well no.

But it dawned on me this morning, well not just this morning, but I was thinking about how plants are living things just like us.

To grow and to flourish the sparaxis needs care. In its case it needs warmth on a sunlit window and it needs water and it needs healthy foliage in which to make food for itself. Sometimes plants need a little helping hand (the correct position, a new pot, better soil, more water) to help them grow. They can’t do it all by themselves. They need someone to care for them and nurture them to bring out the best in them.

And different plants need different amounts of care.

Take the shrubs in my garden for example. Some of them need very little human intervention to flourish. They look great without me tending to them. Others however can become wildly out of control, wither or even, if left to their own devices, wilt and die. Some need no care in the winter but in the spring and summer they need almost weekly care. They’re all very different.

However, sometimes we can look after the plants to the best of our ability: Tend to them, nurture them, follow the care instructions, but still some of them will not flourish. Sometimes external influences play a part and cause the plant stress. It might be the wind, the frost, the snow. It might be insects or rare plant diseases.

The shrubs in my garden are extremely hardy. However, a couple of them first wilted and then died off in recent years. One after an especially cold and snowy winter, the other after a particularly wet and mild winter (though I left one lone leaf on that one and it resurrected itself!) None of the others have ever suffered. Not the lavender, not the laurel, not the other ones I have no ideas of the names of. So why did those others die off? They’d been okay for years. Well, it’s because plants of course are all different and they react differently, even when put under the same stress. They might be able to take one or two frosty nights or one or two nights of high winds, but if they are continually put under the same stress, they may well wither and eventually give up. Others don’t. Their roots may be stronger, their leaves may be thicker. They may just be made to withstand those types of attack. However, they may well suffer another time, from a different onslaught.

Humans are like that. Some of us can take the stresses thrown at us for a short time. Some can take it for a much longer time. The one thing which may cause stress in one person may not even register a dribble of sweat in another. One thing is for sure though, if any of us are subjected to the same element which causes us stress over and over again, like the wind battering a particularly fragile branch, eventually we will bend and break.

It is something I need to remember when I am berating myself for not being able to deal with the same stresses other people seem to cope with like a walk in the park. It doesn’t make me a worse or lesser person than they. It makes me different. They’ll have their own breaking point. Maybe they are better at avoiding the wind and the snow or the things which add stress to their lives. Maybe they learnt it the hard way along time ago. Maybe they ask for help.

The shrubs bordering some of my neighbours properties look tired and unloved and are not flourishing. They are growing, for sure they are growing, but not in a healthy looking way. They weren’t looked after in the summer months. They weren’t nurtured when it was easy to care for their needs. And so they too could eventually wilt and die when seasons get tougher, unless given a helping hand or some tender loving care.

We humans are no different. Sometimes we need care from others – a helping hand – more than at other times. Sometimes we need more than the basic water and light. Unlike plants though, we can ask for that help. The trouble is we so often don’t. When our own personal stresses and strains start to build up and batter us, we soldier on and hope we’ll somehow get through the storm alone, because we don’t want to be a ‘burden’ or for other equally nonsense reasons. Plants do that. They soldier on, having to just hope a human will come along and rescue them from the elements. Sometimes they’ll be lucky. Other times they won’t. But we’re not plants. We have a voice.

We have the power to ask for help instead of leaving the opportunity for nurture to chance. We should remember that sometimes, we all need a helping hand to cope with life’s stresses and strains and sometimes that is even when the sun is still shining. That way, when the storm does hit, we’re less likely to wilt and die.

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