Life and work were not so tough and chaotic before 2014. Many would argue that is because I had not lived a real life before that. I guess they may be correct but it does not really matter. Time gone is gone; life spent is spent. Regrets fuel sufferings; grievances only prolong failures – but who can resist them if we are honest to ourselves? So, the year passed like a city man treading through a marshland in his best suit. However, now looking back, I am amazed that it passed so fast. Regrets and grievances I still have some, but treasures and delights were also unearthed from the memories of my younger years and I have revived my affection for two long forgotten pastimes. One of them is potting plants.
More than three decades ago, I was an enthusiast of Saintpaulia or African Violets for about three years. I managed to grow many pots of them from a few leaves but the whole collection was discarded when I moved back to live with my parents. Late last summer, in the middle of all troubles, I decided to pick up a hobby, hoping that it would distract my fixation at the unresolvable miseries. One afternoon I was babysitting my mother at her place, while flipping through a horticulture book, I told myself I was going to grow my own plants from seeds. That evening, I strolled around a local kitchenware shop and bought three cheap soup bowls, thinking that they would look good for potting small plants. The next day I got a bag of potting soil from Japan Home Centre.
For the next three weeks, I checked the pots every morning before brushing my teeth, expecting to find the spouting of the seeds. That was a long three weeks and I was so tempted to loosen up the top soil to check if the seeds were rotten. Finally one morning, the long waited delivery arrived and the first green tip broke through the soil. I was over-joyed and bounced around the dining room. I reckoned it was my greatest present of the year. I nearly missed the latest train to work after spending more than twenty minutes to take photos for this tiny little seedling - it is not easy at all if you are using a compact camera. I missed my breakfast too but who cared for those lukewarm instant coffee and two slices of buttered brown bread. It was my birthday but I was anticipating more troubles at work.
Thereafter, I was enslaved by these little green bits! They became my obsession, at least for some brief moments. My first hello of the day went to them in the morning and so did my last hello before I took off my sweaty socks after work. Unstoppable smiles sieved through the skin of my face whenever I saw a new sprout; silly chuckles broke the dull and tiresome morning silence whenever I took pictures of them on a bright morning. The first day after my birthday came the second green seedling tip and the third, fourth and fifth came the day after. On the seventh morning, there were more than a dozen and by the end of the first fortnight, the pot was like a mini-garden. Those little fellas grew fast, really fast. It was a delight to watch them grow and see them change. And, if you are respectful enough to wait and see, you will find that they actually dance synchronously like ballerinas under the sun. The only difference is that their graceful movements keep going on while sunlight lasts. This is a slavery that I enjoy.
So, slavery still exists in this part of the free world and I have been one of those enslaved. The frightening reality is that the world is built on a gigantic network of slaveries and that I contribute to the strength of this system as both a keen imposer and an enthusiastic receiver of slavery. Wow! Aren’t we all schizophrenic, I wonder? The saving grace is that amidst this inevitable tragedy, I now see that I can choose where to put my loyalty on. Subservience to the almighty power of matching the demands of bosses, paying the monthly mortgage of homes, increasing wealth for older time, keeping up the image and dignity one portrayed himself among people, maintaining harmonious relationships, fulfilling one’s dreams for his children and many others are all fine by themselves. Yet, the Why, How and What entails are totally different stories and they are all written on the face of every moving human being and I am no exception. My stories were also told through prolonged pains on my neck, shoulders and back, shortness of breath after walking up two flights of stairs, outbursts of temper or swearing at someone I care, over-due utilities bills, having dinners while the fast food restaurant stopped taking orders and going to bed without a bath! Of course, there are many more on the list.
However, I am glad that I am also enslaved by these trivial little seedlings. Choosing to submit my time, mind, attention and curiosity to them, the other masters of slaveries are dispelled at least temporarily, and I receive a blended sense of life, joy, hope, contentment, possibility and love as a reward. It lingers on to help me survive the fear of being late, the preoccupation of my rivals up against me, the urge to shout at others and the reluctance to smile and say Hello. It doesn’t last long each day but long enough for me to appreciate that we can choose and change.
These little seedlings are marvelous. They are the commonest species you can find and worth close to nothing and they are not going to flower or bear fruit in this tiny pot, but they tell a great story – life has an innate vigor to flourish and survive difficulties however humble and lowly it is if it is given the opportunity to sprout. I realize I was given that opportunity and it is my responsibility alone to let it do its job…before I leave the stage. So let yours do the job as well. We would be amazed by ourselves, wouldn’t we?