“You have such a green thumb.” It’s a comment I hear often, most recently from my neighbour. I dropped off a little basket of tomatoes – I grew the cherry ones and they ripen faster than any one family can consume, though I’m giving it my all.
She was commenting on not just the tomatoes, but on the dahlias, chrysanthemums, petunias, salvia, pansies, potatoes, pumpkins, and four o’clock rocks that are currently decorating my back deck. It’s quite lovely if I say so myself. It’s the first year I went so intensively on containers and planters. I usually limit myself to one or two hanging baskets with perhaps a third planter on a stand, but this year the number of containers I was watering was at times over twenty.
The greenery on the deck matches the inside of my house. I have houseplants nearly everywhere. In the living room. In the family room. In the bedrooms, and downstairs in the basement. I’ve added hanging planters this year to increase the available space. The only room exempt is the main bathroom. That room has no natural light. It’s an interior room, and I wouldn’t make that choice again. Should I win the lottery, an opening skylight is in my future.
Or a mansion with a swimming pool and a bathroom that’s already plant-friendly.
But, I digress.
“You have such a talent with music. You’re so gifted.” I’ve heard that one a fair bit too. Not as much since I stopped performing in front of other people, but once upon a time, it was a compliment that flowed. I didn’t believe the compliments and that’s another story, but they were there.
Everyone gets that kind of feedback. If you’re good at something, people will congratulate you. But I find, often, that what’s meant to be laudatory is, in fact, irritating and diminishing. That’s rarely the intent, but it’s often the result. I think it’s because the compliment removes me and the work I do from the equation.
“You have such a green thumb. Your plants are so beautiful. You’re so lucky. My plants just die.”
“You’re so lucky.” That’s a phrase that stings.
I’m not lucky, Mabel, I put in the work.*
This is what those throwaway compliments miss. Those achievements that other people admire aren’t a result of luck or innate talent (though the latter can and does exist). They’re the result of hard work.
I don’t have a green thumb, per se. I work at it. I water the plants, some of them every day. I mist them when they need it. I prune them. I fertilize them. I rotate the pots so they get even light. I shake up the dirt every now and then so it doesn’t turn into a rock. There are no bugs to keep the soil aerated in loose in planters.
The plants on the deck require even more work, especially when the heat waves hit. They need to be kept cool, shaded from the worst of the summer sun, and watered several times a day. They’re more vulnerable than the plants in the ground. I got plant stands on wheels to help me move the heaviest ones about, but my deck garden was at least an hour of work a day.
It reminded me of the hours I’ve spent (and still spend) on piano technique and practice.*
I like it when people enjoy my hobbies and efforts. I don’t like it when they diminish the work required. I’m not preternaturally gifted. I put in the work.
We need to remember to look behind the curtain.
What hobby or talent do you like to spend time with?
*I thought I’d give Karen a break.
*It didn’t actually remind me, but this was a nice segue.