I recently moved into a new little flat and in doing so I had to have a conversation with my Fiddlehead Fig.
For a couple of years, he and I lived together in a beautiful apartment overlooking the Hudson River. Though the view was gorgeous, the window locations made it nearly impossible to put him in the right amount of sunlight to keep him happy. He was grumpy about this and dropped loud green leaves unapologetically to alert me to his discontent. Like a boyfriend who insists on chewing ice even after a good therapy session has addressed it, I sensed he was making a point in the only way he knew how.
I tried twisting him around in his planter occasionally to keep him busy re-arranging himself towards the sun. And that worked for a while. But I knew he was unhappy.
One day without my noticing, he began to extend a lower branch perpendicular to his torso. He reached out this new arm slowly but surely towards the sunny window and began to adorn it with lush tender leaves that glistened and delighted me. I encouraged his new enthusiasm by sketching and admiring him like my muse. He returned the love and attention by pushing ever more leaves out along the new path to please me.
Slowly though, the weight of this hopeful new arm became heavy and began to pull on his main trunk. His entire being began to list and slant in favor of the newness. His roots began to show and more and more of the older leaves yellowed and crashed to the floor in protest of the imbalance.
He became distorted and miserable and I worried that he may be too far gone to make the journey to our new home where huge floor-to-ceiling windows were waiting to bathe him in soft light all day. It was unthinkable to leave him behind so, on moving day, I blanketed him and had the movers carefully carry him to his new home in the sun.
Though he seemed grateful, his essence looked haggard and worried. There was just no getting around the fact that he was woefully disfigured. If this gorgeous new branch continued to grow, he would surely die. The weight was too much for him.
Something had to be done.
With a pair of shears and enormous uncertainty, I did the only thing I could do: I sacrificed the beautiful new arm full of hopeful leaves in order to save him from himself.
With the weight of the branch gone, I put him more upright in his soil, gave him a fertilizer boost and said a little prayer for what might happen next.
While photographing products later that day, I grabbed the lobbed off branch out of the bin and put it in a vase to use as a prop. The lush green leaves looked so lovely that I decided to leave them there for the few remaining days of their life.
A week passed, maybe two. Busy with life and work, I barely noticed a tiny new leaf shoot on the main body of my Fiddlehead Fig who was standing a little more proudly in his sunny corner. It was soft and tender … but new confidence nonetheless! What Hope!
This prompted me to have a peak at the discarded branch I had left in the vase – and sure enough, roots had begun to form in the murky inch of water at the bottom. Both were coming back to life! What Joy!
For my birthday today, I bought a bag of soil and ceremoniously planted the rooty branch in a pretty green pot and put him in his own window to do his thing. No longer made to feel guilty for his fresh enthusiasm, he sits next to my bed to inspire me each morning about the possibilities that lie ahead.
And, pruned and fortified, his wise forebear stands ever taller in the living room, watching over me while I work and reminding me to stay true to my essence no matter what.