Aloe, I must be going

I think one of the thing that inadvertently helps me in the garden is this: I’m very good at taking care of people. Give me your troubled, your hungry, your in-need-of-comfort, and I will listen to them, feed them well-plated food, and come up with the best-ever plans for making them feel generally like rock stars.

I’m not alone in this: I come from a long line of family members on both sides who have this skill and adore putting it to use. It ends up applying to animals, plants and, when I check the mileage against the little Iowa City Tire sticker on the windshield, even my car.

But where I fall down on the job, on a regular basis, is taking care of myself. It’s not that I don’t like to, or that I don’t think it’s a good idea. The problem is simply one of logistics. There are way too many things I want to get out of this life, and not nearly enough time to get them done. That goes for work, for gardening, for cooking, for blogging, for traveling…you name it, I do not have enough time to do whatever it is to the level I would like to achieve.

And so, my personal quest for 2008 is to find ways to take better care of myself. As much as I’d like to pretend that my aging stopped at 22, it didn’t, and I recognize that I cannot operate like a sprinter all the time. At least, I can’t do it without steroids, and we all know how I feel about that.

To that end, I spent this past weekend at a yoga retreat organized by one of my two very favorite teachers in Iowa City. After what has essentially been four weeks of travel, it was shock therapy of the best kind, forcing me to slow down and spend 36 hours attempting to achieve something akin to a quiet mind.

The group of women at the retreat descended on Prairiewoods, a Franciscan facility located in Hi!awatha (and oh, do I wish their city signs did not actually spell it like that…), which is just north of Cedar Rapids. The location is just at the edge of what passes for urban in Eastern Iowa, but once on the property, it’s hard to tell that you’re about 500 yards from a gas station and probably 1000 yards from the nearest strip mall. In other words, it was a cold, windswept, respite-y heaven.

Aloe plantIn the main building, on the wall surrounding a koi pond, sat a whole set of plants for sale. Most of them baffled me—they were ferny or leafy green things that I didn’t recognize and didn’t want to get to know—but there were a few aloe plants scattered amidst the others, and the smallest one caught my eye. It sat in a cheery yellow and pink pot, and it was of a non-threatening size.

So I bought it. It was $2, after all, and I was also buying a couple of books from Prairiewoods’ fabulous gift shop, so why not throw in the plant?

My thought was this: what better reminder that I need to take care of myself than a tangible thing that I need to take care of? The aloe plant, after all, will offer healing back to me if I nurture it, and all along, even if it gets big enough to need repotting, it will remind me that everyone needs, on occasion, 36 hours to reconnect with themselves and to disconnect with everything that’s wearing them thin.

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11 Responses to “Aloe, I must be going”


  1. 1 Lydia January 21, 2008 at 7:36 am

    Now I am inspired to run out and buy a plant — though I fear its fate would be the same as mine — some level of neglect! Perhaps a plastic plant…..

  2. 2 Karen Ledebur January 21, 2008 at 9:41 am

    How fitting my dear cousin….aloe to soothe the skin after feeling the rub of life. Self-care a must for 2008 for both of us! What a wonderful post!

  3. 3 Tim Barcz January 21, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    I love Prairiewoods! I feel somewhat ashamed having taken so long to find it while living across the street. I now routinely walk through their grounds with my dog, meandering through the grasslands and trails.

    It’s a very nice place, I’m not sure too many in the CR area know about it.

    I can relate to your feeling of solitude while on their grounds. I’ve wondered if the layout of the facility was an accident or, more likely, on purpose, such that when you’re there you really don’t get a sense of how close the world really is.

  4. 4 wayne January 21, 2008 at 6:41 pm

    I am a firm believer that if we can’t learn how to love ourselves… we can’t truly love others. May you and the aloe plant thrive.

  5. 5 jodi January 22, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Exactly right. NO one else will look after us if we don’t do it ourselves…and being healthier means more gardening, too. Good for you taking time for you.

  6. 6 Mouse January 23, 2008 at 11:37 am

    OK, I declare my ignorance, what will this plant do for you? And do they grow in France?

  7. 7 inadvertentgardener January 29, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    Lydia, plastic plants really aren’t the same. I encourage you to give it a whirl, no matter what!

    Kären, thanks so much for the Colorado cheer — I appreciate it!

    Tim, I didn’t realize you live right across the street from there. It’s such a gorgeous property — you’re so lucky to be able to walk your dog there.

    Wayne, those are wise words.

    Jodi, it’s true — healthier is a good thing.

    Mouse, I don’t know if aloe will grow in France, but the plant has a gel-like substance in it that is very soothing for sunburns and other skin irritations.


  1. 1 Roots or no roots « The Inadvertent Gardener Trackback on January 23, 2008 at 7:37 pm
  2. 2 Retreating from the world without traveling far from it « Discover The Corridor Blog Trackback on January 28, 2008 at 12:10 am
  3. 3 Aloe, I must be dying « The Inadvertent Gardener Trackback on January 29, 2008 at 9:19 pm
  4. 4 Allergic to asking for help « The Inadvertent Gardener Trackback on January 31, 2008 at 7:12 pm

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