Greening the Home
How bringing little bits of nature indoors has traditionally brightened our lives, especially around the holidays:
“Trail Talk” Will be taking a brief hiatus through the holiday season. While I still have plenty to write about, coordinating interviews when everyone is away, traveling to see family, or otherwise out of their routine is proving difficult. I don’t want to bring you anything rushed or substandard.
These episodes will return in the New Year.
My Thursday posts will continue uninterrupted.
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The early morning air atop the pass is crisp and cool. It carries the faint hint of smoke, bourn from hundreds of miles away.
Summer never quite touches the peaks this high up. Strips of snow still linger all year long, hidden in the shadows where the afternoon sun can’t reach.
A thin haze fills the valley between our ridge-line and the next, making it appear almost bottomless.
My hiking partner and I turn away from the overlook, and set our sights back on the trail.
This route offers a nice change of pace from the normal bare-rock, exposed traverses I often find myself on. The path is narrow, remote, and lush; winding its way out of a tight thicket.
The smell of crushed pine needles is intoxicating. For a moment, I shut my eyes and drink down deep breaths of the scent, letting it fill my sinuses. Something about it feels clean, pristine, and rejuvenating.
Nature in a Bottle — Or Ceramic Pot
At some point in late 2016, I visited the botanical Gardens in Buffalo, New York. Each room was like walking through a different corner of the world; cloud forests, arid planes, deep jungles all under one roof in the same building.
Each breath I took was rich and satisfying. By the time I reached the place’s tiny gift shop at the end of my visit, I convinced myself I wanted to take this feeling home where I could enjoy it every day.
Tiny potted plants lined the shelves in an exotic sampling of the rooms I’d just visited.
“Excuse me,” I said to the young woman working behind the counter, “I’m looking for something nice for my apartment.”
“Okay,” she nodded.
“Trouble is, I’ve just deluded myself into thinking I can garden during my visit here. I’m an absolute plant killer. Everything I touch dies. Do you have something around my speed?”
The cashier smiled. “I have just the thing.”
She walked me over to a tiny fern with green and yellow leaves, all sprouting from a pot the size of a teacup. She picked up the one closest to the shelf’s edge.
“This is a Banana Croton. They’re almost impossible to kill. Not picky about sunlight. Nice splash of color.” She held out the plant for me to examine. “Perfect for brightening up an apartment.”
I felt the waxy leaves between my fingers. “How much?”
Money changed hands. I took the plant to my car, and brought it home nestled in the front cupholder.
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True to the cashier’s word, the plant was hearty, easy to take care of, and quickly flourished.
I moved it to a bigger pot, stuck on a pair of googly eyes, and named him Randal.
Five years later, I’ve moved across the country twice with Randal in the passenger seat. Now he’s taller than my desk, brightening my home with welcome splashes of vibrant greens and yellows.
Every Christmas, Randal gets his own ornament as well.
Randal — the source of whose name is an entire story unto itself — is certainly not the most exotic plant. He doesn’t smell quite as nice as the pine forest either. But he certainly brings some much-needed life into my home.
When You’re Missing Home
Home is a bit of a funny phrase here. As I’ve discussed before with Ty Ellenbogen during an earlier episode of Trail Talk: I believe our natural state is with dirt beneath our fingernails, out in the wild.
To this end: our true home is nature, and I believe a great many of us are suffering from a profound homesickness we can’t begin to understand; packed and stacked into concrete boxes.
Even if you don’t keep any houseplants, in many households Christmas trees serve a similar function: a little piece of nature that nourishes us.
I sincerely hope if you cannot spend the holidays with loved ones this year, you can spend them with a bit of the outdoors to bring peace to your soul.
Thank you for continuing to read Cole’s Climb. I’m grateful to have your support.
Have a Merry Christmas!