I have a dying bamboo plant on the corner of my desk. It wasn’t always dying. When it was gifted to me it was lush, tall, and vibrant. It had survived two previous owners before it reached me at work with the specific and strict instructions, “Do not let this plant die.” I was honored to be bestowed with the responsibility. I was just out of college and this lucky plant was my first desk ornament. A housewarming present of sorts; symbolism that I had arrived and was here to stay.
I managed to keep it happy and well cared for during the following months. There were days when the leaves would start to yellow and curl ever so slightly. Seeing this would send me into a minor panic as I would hear the words, “Do not let this plant die” repeat over and over in my head. But whenever this happened, I would adjust its surroundings and the precious bamboo would find a way to revive itself. Each and every time.
Bamboo is a prideful plant. See, it stands strong even when its water is almost depleted. While other houseplants would darken and begin to fall from the slightest dehydration and lack of sun…the bamboo will only show the slightest glimmer of unhappiness. That is, of course, until it’s completely dead.
I arrived at the office one morning to find a plant that overnight – quite literally – had gone from green and vivacious to something entirely different. Every leaf that had once occupied the two long bamboo stems had now turned a bright yellow. And that’s when I noticed my poor plant had only a smidgen of water left. I was heartbroken. No matter how much filtered water I gave it or where around the office I moved it to get the perfect ratio of sun and shade…it was too late, my plant was gone.
“Do not let this plant die.” I had failed.
I clipped the leaves and stems that had also yellowed but held on to the stumps that remained. Perhaps out of the sheer hope that out of the wreckage, something could eventually grow. Days went by. Then weeks. Then months. Still, the leafless stumps remained on my desk. There were moments when I thought I should just accept it and dump the remains. Allow the plant to die in peace without me staring blankly at it every day. And yet, out of sheer laziness I never did.
That is, until, the week I had left my partner of five years to purse…well…myself. Feeling listless and a bit regretful, I had a new motivation to purge. The first to go? The plant I had been holding onto so tightly, that undoubtedly would never return back to what it had once been.
For the first time in months, I actually picked up the vase to toss everything that remained inside. I was finally ready to clear out the clutter and move on with my day and in turn, my life. And yet, something stopped me…ever so quietly a sprout had begun to grow. It was strong, too. And where the vase was clouded with years of water marks and pebble scratches, the sprout had continued to grow and revive itself, hidden away from my daily, expectant, stare.
The more I inspected the bamboo the more I found new sprouts hidden and tucked away. What I had for so long assumed to be a lifeless plant was in fact, more resilient than I could ever have guessed. And what I had stared at a million times…I had never actually seen.
I suppose a new beginning is often a quiet one. It’s a peaceful inching of infant leaves as they reach towards the sun. It’s the simple shedding of beautiful foliage that has served its purpose. But more importantly, a new beginning is not dependent on the expectations of others. My bamboo did not continue on because I willed it so. And it certainly didn’t concern itself with the timeline I placed on it.
I don’t know how long it will take my lucky plant to fully regenerate to the beauty it had once been. It may never. Instead, what may grow is something entirely different and yet, more impressive than it ever was.