POV: Planets.

Friday, February 28, 2014

POV ("point of view") is a series that addresses many of the same themes covered in my Equals Record column: growing up, saying yes to adventure, learning to embrace a quarter-life crisis. Each POV entry will include a photograph and a short reflection based on what’s pictured. While my previous column focused largely on ideas, POV focuses on moments - glimpses, glances, tiny stories. 

In January I became the owner of a tiny planet, green and brown, with leaves sprouting from its northernmost pole and patches of moss in place of oceans. 

I spotted it suspended in the window of a garden shop as I combed the neighborhood in fruitless pursuit of windowsill herbs. “Not until spring,” I was told at every stop. Plant novice that I am, I found myself scandalized by the fragility of parsley and thyme, and the apparent inability of basil and coriander to thrive in a polar vortex.

But here was my planet. Sound, sturdy, untroubled by winter. I brought it home in a paper bag, resisting an urge every step of the way to cover it with a blanket and shield it from snow.

Last week, I interviewed a tattoo artist who lives in a Lower East Side one-bedroom filled with tapestries and assorted taxidermy and an extensive collection of antique clothing. She has a collage of vintage valentines taped to her kitchen wall, and a giant painted egg on the floor next to her bed. We talked and sifted through her things for an hour.  

Stepping out on to the street afterward, I found myself disoriented. For a moment, I was unsure of where I was. I had to look around and reorient, the way people sometimes do when exiting train stations and emerging from underground.

I walked home over the Williamsburg Bridge. Somehow it’s become my job to visit other worlds, I realized, and spent the rest of the day feeling staggeringly happy.

It's occurred to me recently that what my own world looks like - its seasons, its moons, the speed of its orbit - is something I have a hand in shaping. There’s an Anaïs Nin quote I love and repeat often - I’ve mentioned it here before: “Had I not created my whole world, I would certainly have died in other people’s.”


My planet - known as kokedama to those well-versed in plants - now lives in my bedroom. It hangs from a nail that I drove into the beam of my canopy bed, where it receives the quantity of indirect sunlight it needs, and where it finds its place among other treasures I've collected over the years - books and photos and half-filled journals, piles of thrifted clothing and artwork done by friends. 

Sometimes I get out of bed and bump my head on it. Often, I’m convinced I’ve killed it. It requires peculiar upkeep, including weekly soaks in the bathroom sink, and regular misting with a spray bottle that I once realized was filled with vinegar. "I'm bathing my planet!" I call to whomever is in the apartment when I do this.

In the weeks it’s lived with me, it appears to have aged. 

“How will I know if it’s healthy?” I asked the bespectacled man behind the counter at the garden store.

“Just feel it and you’ll learn,” he said. “You’ll come to know its weight.”

So I have. And so - despite the vinegar and the snow, the head-on collisions and the erratic heating in my century-old apartment building - it lives.

You can find my previous POV entries, here, and the archive for my personal essay column on the Equals Record, here. Thank you so much for reading, and for your support! Photo via my Instagram.


Diana said...

Oh goodness. That was beautiful Shoko. Every time I read your POV's I'm reminded of why it is a MUST read for me.

ps. Now I totally want my own planet. ;)

burntfeather said...

aww lovely I'm currently trying to keep alive 9 plants, trying to upkeep the love and also make sure my World is how I want it to be, big scary changes are brewing *deep breath* Always love your words :)

Paw said...

i love your words, too. And your thoughts, especially. And where they lead. And where they lead me.

Tiffany said...

it sounds like a lovely job - to visit other worlds - i would like one where i can make other worlds...
i really always enjoy the pov posts too. they are very sweet and personal, and it always feels nice to relate to another person :)

sherry said...

Wow! Never realized I have another world with me when I added indoor plants in my place. Now i look at them differently. Totally. Thanks Shoko!

girlseeksplace said...


I gave ya a little shout-out on my Facebook page. Have a fabulous weekend.

Maggie said...

This is so lovely.

Shoko said...

Thank you so, so much!

Rachel @ Existation said...

A plant ball?! Oh man, I would have killed that thing already. You're a champ.

Raquel R. said...

Beautifully written. An absolute pleasure to read.

Anonymous said...

loved this.

max said...

beautiful beautiful beautiful.

angela said...

Cheers in owning a kokedama! I took a class and made one, but sadly could not keep it alive. I'm sure you will have better luck with yours!

Claire said...

I love the idea of hanging a plant on a canopy bed post, even if it a potential (mini) hazard. A lovely plant and a lovely POV. :-)


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