Of plants and living in a strange landPosted: March 12, 2011
I have done so many, many thrilling things in the last two weeks thanks in large part to a visit from my mother. And soon, my dearest comrades, I will recount to you all the glorious highlights. But as my dear mother has just headed out for the airport to return home, I wanted first to post a little musing on my basil plant. The link will become clear shortly:
Living here has meant, for me, spending lots of time alone. Sometimes days go by and my only interactions with other human beings are commercial in nature.* While solitude offers a lone traveler much needed time for reflection, reading, writing and and the like and while it verifies a number of annoying clichés (whose capacity to irritate me, in fact, causes me to omit them here) it also is sometimes the cause of a gnawing loneliness.
How does one remedy this occasional suffering? Well, basil. Obviously.
A few weeks after my arrival I bought a little basil plant. During my mother’s jaunt southward I harvested most of its leaves for a (delicious) dinner we made. In the hopes it would continue to grow, we went to one of the city’s very common street-corner flower vendors and bought a little bag of soil and a bigger pot into which to transfer it.
As of today, the sad day of my mother’s departure, it is flourishing. Lots of little new leaves at its base. It seems happy. And here’s why it matters: that little basil plant is a good fellow to talk to in the absence of human beings. It responds to me when I feed it. It’s always willing to stay for dinner. It’s green and alive and it might die on me (hey, anybody might) but it certainly isn’t going to tell me it doesn’t understand my Spanish or that it needs its freedom or that I should get out more. Sweet, sweet Señor Albahaca. I love him.
So those of you lone travelers out in the world, wherever you are, know this: plants rule! In a really nice, unpretentious, non-megalomaniacal kind of way. They are also poly-lingual. Or at least they listen in all languages. And if they stop listening? Eat them.
*This can be extremely liberating. I am particularly fond of flirting with the kioskeros, the young gentlemen who work at the 24-hour corner stores, selling cigarettes, candy and soda. There is zero risk of rejection; they always have to sell you your gatorade anyway.