My last office was a long rectangle, with the entrance at the far end, and the seating area at the opposite end after entering. Directly in front of the door, placed squarely in the empty space in the back half of the office I placed a very large plant, named Fred. Fred had huge dark green leaves that threatened to tap people on the shoulder as they sat on the sofa. It sent out what I learned are air roots, which snaked around the room and made for some interesting conversations. Do you trim them or let them go? Is it a sign the plant needs more space in its pot or is it healthy?
As much as I adore plants, caring for them is not one of my superpowers, and they exist by virtue of my benign neglect. I was thrilled that Fred could thrive in my office despite my less than informed care. I could meet with a client in my therapy office weekly for six months and then one day s/he might exclaim, “You got a new plant!” This was a clear signal that they were feeling better if my eight foot wing span of a plant had just become visible.
I came to rely on Fred in this way, appreciative of his no fail signal that someone was able to see beyond their own challenges to notice him. And then I moved to my current office, which is less than half the size of my old one, and it was clear that unless Fred claimed a spot on the loveseat, he would need to be re-homed.
I did take my other two plants which I had inherited when a friend moved to Seattle. A Pothos, known for its indestructibility, and agreeability to almost any amount of light as long as you slide it some water once a week. That and my Christmas Cactus, which insists on donning its beautiful costume for Halloween, and the occasional Valentine bloom.
For 18 years I continued to trim back the Pothos when it started meandering around the room, and I plucked its dead leaves, grooming it like a pet. This past summer, for the very first time, it decided to adhere itself to the wall and climb it as it would a trellis. It was halfway up, alongside a framed print my daughter made before I really took notice, and was at the top of the frame before I walked over to learn how tightly it was holding on with its tiny brown claw-like straps, sending new chutes out the top.
Clients began stopping mid-sentence when glancing at that wall to exclaim over it. We wondered together what it would do if it reached the ceiling. It didn’t take long to find out. I climbed up on my file cabinet to route it away from the crack to make sure that it didn’t travel up into the ceiling. It’s now headed back toward my desk.
I don’t dare trim it. It is making a stand, and feels like a sentient being. Who am I to interfere? We applaud its progress, marvel at its ingenuity and speculate about what is to come. I don’t have the answer. For now we’ll just have to wait and see, enjoying its participation in our space. It doesn’t bark, send out odors or violate confidentiality. My clients and I are now the beneficiaries of its creativity and that is enough. I am happy to live in symbiosis with this gentle leafy creature.