My mother sent me the dry, seedy flowers of her favorite garden basil. The seeds grow vigorously wherever I sow them--proper garden corners in raised beds, in pots, anywhere I've seed-bombed with the flick of a wrist. They are ancestral seeds, she tells me, the kind of basil she grew up with in a country long since left behind. The size and shape of the leaves recalls a lemon basil, and they smell that way, too.
In the office, I sow the seeds in a tall yellow planter, mixed in with a couple of lemon balm seeds for good measure. Lemon balm for the kind of calm joy that is necessary to make academic spaces feel convivial and productive. Lemon basil from the old country to remind myself of spacious time, of how long that my thoughts and I have been in the making.
Somehow, a chickweed seed found its way into this planter and seed mix, fitting right in with the leggy basils. Chickweed soothes and nourishes, but can also be more acidic than a lemon balm. You can spot its heart-shaped leaves in the forefront of the picture.
In the near corner, a spider spins its web. I think it is a brown recluse, but I have only ever seen its paws sticking out from between the wall and the window frame. I do not recall knowing this spider before I left for sabbatical last year, but when I came back, it was the only (apparent) living thing left in my office, except for a sad succulent I had forgotten to take with me. But the spider's presence speaks of many forms of microscopic life (probably in the damp walls where it lurks) that have been feeding it.
I track seeds into my office. Some, like the seed pods of trees at home or on campus, arrive on my shoes. I contemplate planting them but for now, they live on the windowsill. Other seeds are more lively. The sweet potato I cut in half (each half placed in a jar with water) will sprout tiny plants called "slips," which I will grow like ivy in my office. The leaves are edible. And after a season, you get sweet potatoes! I have a special trough-like planter that this will all take place in once the slips start to grow.
Getting the split-leafed philodendron into my office was quite a feat, as it was heavy and I climb a high hill every day from the parking lot. As I carried it in on a small portable cart, I contemplated the plant's mobilities. Where had its ancestors seeded and rooted? Whose cutting yielded these nursery plants? Had it ever breathed the air on a university campus--ours, an arboretum? The scale of this plant is massive, larger than a body. It took a minute for me to figure out where to put it. It insisted on a high shelf near the window, in easy reach of light and humidity. After a day or two, a root-like tendril appeared, reaching and feeling for a place to spread.