New Beginnings

When I moved to NYC to Austin, Texas for medical school, I knew the transition — cutting my apartment size down nearly a third — would be difficult for my cat. I also knew the transition — going from an apartment with a balcony in the bright, warm Texas sun to only a westward facing window — would be difficult for my plants.

A close up photo of three plants on a window sill. The george washington bridge is in the background.

But I hadn’t considered the extent to which my cat — more cooped up  and bored than ever before, with sudden access to lots of bright, leafy greens to chew on — would be so terrible for my plants, too.

I will forever marvel at my cat’s ingenuity. I have no idea how she manages to jump up onto ledges with barely any room for her perch, or how she steps over some plants without disturbing them to get to the leafier, and apparently more appealing, plants behind them. But she did — regularly. And my poor plants suffered.

I can happily say though that most of them are not only recovering, but thriving. I’ve set my plants up on a makeshift shelf made from boxes and chairs to gain maximum benefit from the autumn sun. The rest of spread out on my window sill. And, after a month or two of me worrying that my plants would stop growing and eventually, perhaps, die, they didn’t — they seemed to adjust, settle themselves, and started growing again.

A close-up photo of the top of a plant. You can see lots of bright green, new leaves growing from the top.
A month ago, there was nothing on top of this little branch but chewed-up, brown leaves. Look at it now!

I have one plant, a spiky “bonzai-like” plant I bought from an Asian grocery store in Austin, that my cat seemed to really, really like to eat. In the first few weeks she nearly obliterated the plant, and I was worried that I’d have a bunch of spiky sticks that would eventually die and rot in the pot. But no! Over the past month, it has flourished, growing new leaves. I don’t know when it will bloom again — it has yellow/white flowers — but I am sure that it will survive!

Its rebound — these new beginnings — made me interested in finding out more about this plant. Again, I bought it at a grocery store, without any label or care instructions. I don’t even know its name!

A few quick Google searches later — the winning one being “horns woody plant yellow pale flowers” — I think I found my baby. It’s a white Euphorbia milii, otherwise known as Crown of Thorns.

A close up of a the center of a plant called the crown of thorns. You can see the spikes on their woody branches.

Now, I’m not a religious person, but I enjoy religious imagery. Learning my plant is called the Crown of Thorns makes me want to see if I can take a cutting and actually make it into a crown. The actual stem part of the plant seems to grow slowly, though; I’ll have to wait a bit longer, and perhaps wait until it’s not putting so much energy into growing its leaves back. Hopefully my cat (who is calmer now, thank goodness!) will let it grow in peace.

A picture of a potted plant being held up to a window. In the background is the George Washington bridge. The plant's pot is green glass, and the plant has thorns.

I know my plants are just doing their own thing. But seeing my Crown of Thorns bounce back after a traumatic encounter (or encounters) with my cat is exactly what I needed right now. Medical school has been a fantastic experience, and, for a number of reasons, it has felt like a new beginning for me. Not only am I beginning my life in New York City, beginning my career in medicine, and embarking into this world we called adulthood, but I am making an entirely new crop of friends (not just literal crops 😊), have a new partner, and am even experimenting with a new voice and confidence that I didn’t have before.

I LOVE taking care of my babies — whether they are green or covered in fur. Not all of my plants have pet names, but some of them do. Until now, my Crown of Thorns was literally my “kinda like a spiky bonsai” plant. Well, not anymore!

I have decided to name my Crown of Thorns “King,” to build upon the crown imagery. I already have a cactus called “Emperor,” so King will fit in just fine. I’ll introduce you to Emperor next time — along with one of my favorite nonfiction books in the world, written by a doctor who worked at none other than the same medical school I am currently attending.

See you next time!

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