I bought my lucky bamboo from the Jean Coutu on Jarry and Lajeunesse in July 2008. That sets a personal record: this is the longest I have ever kept a plant alive.
My winning strategy is that any time my lucky bamboo looks like it might shrivel up from neglect, I water it. I take it to the kitchen sink faucet, fill it up, and return it to the shelf where it lives. Am I superstitious about my lucky bamboo? I am not really sure where I stand on this score. I have had a lot of good and bad luck since buying it, but on balance, I think it has served me OK.
At the time of my lucky bamboo purchase, my apartment was nearly empty. I moved from Edmonton to Montreal with only a large backpack, a few blankets and sheets, a suitcase of clothes, and an old laptop. I cohabitated in Verdun for a year, then moved here alone to Villeray. The first few weeks in this apartment for my silent bamboo and me were mostly uneventful. I slept on a camper bed in the middle of my empty bedroom. I slowly tried to assemble some sort of home without increasing my debt too too much. My aim was to make the place seem welcoming for when Monika finally joined me in Montreal. I got a queen bed, a kitchen table, curtains — fancy stuff like that.
As busyness, stress, and pecuniary problems subsequently conspired against me, my apartment stopped getting any more home-like. After a brief bed bug scare, I threw out my camper bed and the couch that I had inherited when moving in. I fumigated the living room. Then I purchased a new couch for $260 from some crooks on rue Saint Hubert. I say crooks because the couch broke about a month later. But I still use it. I pile up a bunch of scrap wood underneath the middle crossbeam. Every now and then, this pile of wood collapses and the couch lurches downwards violently. Typically this happens while Monika is over. She finds it hysterically funny.
My dwellings are probably not much different from those of your average grad student.
Recently, the shelf for my spices, on which the lucky bamboo resides, enjoyed a thorough cleaning. This is thanks to the only civilizing influence in my life – Monika, again. Now the plant strikes a more confident pose against the white wall. I watered it today; long life seems built into its DNA, but I am doing my part, I am convinced of it.
Some debate has occurred in these parts as to whether it’s actually possible to kill a lucky bamboo. I contend that it is, which makes my feat of keeping one alive all the more impressive. I have met people who HAVE killed a lucky bamboo. Unfortunately, I cannot remember their names, which does not help me in the heat of debate.
Sadly, besides keeping alive a lucky bamboo, in all other respects, I do not have green thumbs. I cannot garden and I don’t know the first thing about the all the millions of photosynthesizing organisms on this planet. My cousin and his wife know a lot about these matters, as you’ll see on their blog. I envy them.
How is it that I can be told the name of a tree or flower several times and always end up forgetting it and yet I only need to be told the capital of Mongolia ONCE and it sticks forever? (It’s Ulan Bator.) What accounts for this selective memory? Could it be that I excel in the show-offy recollection of facts that only help out in conversations with like-minded friends? (“You know, the USA reached peak oil production in 1970 and has been in inexorable decline ever since.”)
Like many who share my leftist, apocalyptic, vaguely communitarian leanings, I am better at talk than deeds. My inability to garden is but one symptom of my condition. Gardening is a form of practical knowledge. My BA in Political Science can’t exactly be called practical knowledge.
As our economy shows ever more signs of entering terminal decline, my inability to procure any of my basic needs by dint of my own labour brings me increasing regret. I truly look forward to spending more time in a genuine and productive relationship with the natural world one day. Perhaps this is the dewy-eyed viewpoint of an out-of-touch city slicker, but I think that eating tomatoes from my own garden would be something of a spiritual rebirth for me. I was born and raised in the country; a return of some kind to more earthy endeavours would bring me considerable contentment.
Many of the material trappings of the city do deep damage to my soul, I am convinced of it. Billboards and bar room TVs and traffic jams and laptops, iPods, cellphones everywhere – these make me uneasy and anxious. Nothing has made me happier in recent years than being in the middle of the mountains in France with Monika, hearing nothing but each other and the wind.
I am not pining to be out of the city, of course, because Montreal is a wonderful place to be at nearly times. What I need is balance; a bit less city, a bit more green. Until I find that balance, the lucky bamboo will have to suffice.