Photo by Samuel Uy

Yesterday was just 2020, and now we’re counting down the days to 2022. I’ve spent two birthdays locked in a pandemic, and so I frequently mistake my age for two years younger than it actually is. When I’m not careful, I slip into my old habit of looking forward to the end of COVID-19—which essentially means I hurry past most days absentmindedly. And then, I stop and think—where has the time gone?

In retrospect, I’d long felt burdened with the idea of time as an irreplaceable resource. Hence, I’d always wanted to beat it. My goal was to achieve everything I could before I met my inevitable demise. And so, when the first lockdown was imposed, my initial thought was: Where do I use all the time I’ll be spending just at home?

After that and the series of lockdowns that followed, cabin fever ensued, so much so that I suddenly ventured into a hobby that my pre-pandemic self wouldn’t have been able to accommodate: indoor gardening.

I started with quite a challenging genus—the infamous Calathea, also known as ‘prayer plants,’ better known as fussy and pest-prone. To my delight, it survived my custody pretty well. My next plant was the easy golden pothos, which required such effortless care that I was fooled into thinking that I somehow grew a green thumb. I killed my first plant, a Hoya Kerrii, a month later.

In the middle of tending to what is now a jungle in my tiny bedroom, I’ve learned quite a few things. Some plants, like the Pothos NJoy, would push out growth as frequently as thrice a week. Others, like the ZZ plant, would stay stagnant for months, and then suddenly burst out four stalks at a time. But as a plant mom, I wasn’t only excited about new growth—my favorite Calatheas would dance in the night, reminding me to look for signs of life in between growth.

Before slipping into this hobby, I thought that plants only needed water and sunlight to survive. But now, I recognize that thriving isn’t all that easy—sometimes, spider mites, thrips, and mealybugs get in the way, too. When this happens, I try my best to beat the pests with soapy water and agua oxigenada. When there are too many adversaries, I move the plants outside and let nature take its course. Later on, the strongest ones would surprise me with new growth. It’s still baffling to me, but for some reason, plants are more resilient when left outdoors.

These days, I could only spend a mere couple of minutes of my weekday mornings with my plants. But on the weekends, I take hours bathing in their presence. I carefully examine one leaf at a time to find negligible changes I might’ve dismissed during my busy days at work. Sometimes, I find tiny insect bites. But on sunnier days, I discover blooms from plants I never even thought would flower.

The comfort of indoor gardening is seeing life as it is, a simulacrum of uncertainties, the endless cycle of life and death. Needless to say, the pandemic has stretched—and at the same time, compressed—my concept of time. But when I look at my indoor garden, I stop racing and realize that at this moment, even when I feel stagnant, there is so much I can look forward to. I’ve learned to keep my eyes wide open for all the sparks of joy I could get. Indeed, there is life in between growth.

By Danielle Uy

She is a travel and culture writer and editor for hire. On the side, she attempts to poeticize human narratives—sometimes for media outlets, mostly for her own pleasure.

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