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Some thoughts on a houseplant.

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We decided to repot the oregano the other day. It had traveled between multiple states and lived in three apartments, and for whatever reason our current home has proven to provide the most optimal level of light for it. The same pot had served as its vessel for well over a year, and its latest placement (at the top of the stairs next to the sink on the countertop to the right) was rapidly straining its limits. The roots had expanded to the clay pot’s farthest depths, and when the plant could no longer extend outward, it began to add girth to its existing sprouts. This had proven to be desirable for a while, as we were never without fresh (and fat, fragrant) oregano, and the plant’s fullness and vitality were a welcome addition to our kitchen. But as time went on, the oregano’s buds began to swell past the point of sustainability and its branches began to fail under their own weight.



Jen first got it somewhere in New York; I want to say the farmer’s market in Union Square, but it’s difficult to know for sure.

In spite of its recent overextension, the oregano has still served as the golden child among the plants that have moved around with us.

Most of the succulents have either stagnated or died.

Creepy Guy, an aeonium purpureum, once resembled a lion with a full mane, but for some reason (the sun, the winter, the water, the soil) it spent its first several months in Chicago expanding directly upward until its crowning flowers were too small to nourish the rest of the plant. It withered from the bottom up, with its tertiary leaves making final twists and turns toward the fickle sun before giving in, drying up and flaking off.

I brought two plants from my old office: the Julia plant (named after our cleaning lady, who would randomly leave plants on our windowsills after we had closed up the office for the night) and a jade tree. Julia was dying for a while after we left her without water for a couple of weeks last Christmas, but it was difficult to tell because in over a year she never really seemed to change. She’s doing fine now, but she has always been low-maintenance. The jade had been struggling since I first brought it home on the subway, wrapped in spare plastic bags, but it wasn’t until it arrived in Chicago that its seemingly muscular and calloused base gave way to oversaturation, first slumping and eventually splitting. It had been losing volume steadily for several months, but the sudden confrontation with its agonized death still struck to the heart. We surgically removed a few of its healthiest branches and left them soaking in some water to establish fresh roots, and we repotted those alongside a new bush that Jen got at Home Depot. They seem healthy, but it’s tough to tell how well the jade has been adjusting. I imagine it’s difficult to find oneself suddenly stripped of everything that defines one’s existence.


The narrow shape of the oregano’s original pot forced it straight up before its mass started to pull it out horizontally. At its fullest point, it resembled the elegantly intentional tossle of a hot surfer guy haircut. We struggled to remove it without damaging it, but the oregano had grown physically attached to the pot’s porous walls. Plant bedsores, I guess.

We cut around its edges and managed to plop it into its new home. The branches, liberated from their months-long suffocation, promptly deflated, splaying out across the ample floor space provided by the fresh soil. It looked like we had killed it.

Our healthy little reminder of the past had been set free, but it was irrevocably changed. We placed it in the same spot on the counter, even though it was taking up much more space. It seemed like the right thing to do, since it was its placement in that new spot that led to the repotting in the first place.

I think the oregano was depressed for a few days as it adjusted to its new surroundings. But it’s starting to stand up again now.

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