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An Ecology of Home

Joelle Renee Benoliel

My Grandmother was a skilled botanist. Till the day she died she could be found in her garden hybriding plants, hacking away roots that threaten to choke her greenery and weeding... weeding for years!  She was a strong, brilliant woman and plants of all kinds were her closest companions. She was especially talented with roses. My Grandfather took much pride in his wife's flourishing abilities. He’d bribe nurses at the Dr.’s office with breathtaking bouquets that he’d pick from the garden. I grew up with fresh fruit picked from the trees and always flowers. The sun in Southern California just doesn't stop, with a little bit of water, anything can grow and keep growing, but my whole family had a particular knack for coaxing plants to thrive. I never understood why someone would give cut flowers. From my experience, I’d prefer to pick them from my own backyard.

After 7 years of living in the big concrete city of New York, I recognized a languishing for the endless flora and fauna that surrounded my California upbringing. I realized through my longing for a home, plants were an important missing element. Ecology was not only an element of my childhood, it was in my spiritual DNA. Thomas Moore, in The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life has a lot to say on the subject of Ecology and home being one in the same:

“Connecting the vast notion of logos (the study of, light/enlightenment) with the mysterious word oikos (home, either a human home, a temple, or the home of the gods, and even the astrological “house” or domicile of a planet) means home, you get ‘ecology,’ and infinitely deep and mysterious notion of home.”

Not only am I an inhabitant of this planet called earth, but nature speaks to the depths of my person, reminding me that I am home in this natural world. I had become disconnected to that fact living in so many different apartments in a big city for so long, I hadn’t lived anywhere long enough to watch anything grow.

At this time, I began to settle into myself and acknowledge the cravings of my soul. I realized how at home I felt in the sunlight. My apartment had big windows that let in lots and lots of sunlight. On cold winter days I would come home to my warm, sunlit apartment and seek out the patches of direct sunlight to curl up like a cat in its oddly shaped beams. This was the perfect environment for California desert plants. One day a package arrived in the mail from my sister-in-law. Inside the Fedex box were 36 clippings from different succulents and cacti from her garden. Holding those plants in my hands I realized the deep rooted connection I felt to living things. At the surface of me lies a true connection with nature and life that comes from the earth. Thus started my big city apartment garden. With each trip back to California I began to smuggle clippings from my Grandmother’s garden. To this day, I find myself stealing pieces of plants and cacti from all over the world to bring home. I no longer live in my sun splashed NYC apartment, but you better believe, I am surrounded by plants.

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