It would not be unfair to say that one of Casco Viejo’s most iconic characteristics, its dangling veranera flower vines and the associated task of growing them, has deeply humbled me. I moved into a new apartment several months ago and adopted about six plants, each of which were flourishing and alive. I loved how they crept along my balcony trellis and how they hung like long locks of hair into the street way below swaying with the breeze that comes off the ocean.
I enjoyed my plants for about one month before I stopped noticing them. It was not in a disenchanted way but more in the way that certain things have the ability to just blend in and become invisible. A pool in your backyard, for example. You appreciate it supremely for a certain period of time before it becomes just another thing you take for granted.
It was about two months into my new apartment that I re-noticed the plants because they were beginning to die. My neighbor, an older lady with what slightly resembles a verdant jungle on her balcony next door, called over one afternoon and said that, without serious affection, my plants would die within a few weeks. Not one plant. Not two plants. But all my plants would die.
I can now say I know the feeling of revelation and retrospect and regret that drug addicts feel after a good high. The way they look back on all the destruction they’ve caused to themselves and their families, wishing wholeheartedly they could take it all back. The remorse was enough to shock me into action. That very moment, I filled the largest tub I had in my closet and began watering my plants vigilantly. Their soil soaked up the water as if they were sponges and I thought back to a time when I was twelve and our soccer coach prohibited us from taking a water break until everyone finished running laps around the compound. I remember slacking in the back and thinking to myself how terrible the coach would feel if I keeled over and fainted from dehydration. I was playing out various legal scenarios in my mind when, to add insult to injury, a softball from the adjacent field, came flying over and hit me square in the forehead.
I now water my plants every morning and every night. I do it religiously. And the growth of my plants (or at least the regeneration) I see every day is inspiring. Little green sprouts popping up from grey and damaged stems. Bright pink flowers blooming from the nodes of seriously neglected stalks. My plants aren’t anywhere near how healthy they were when I first arrived. But I like to think that with my continued affection – my focus on one of Casco Viejo’s greatest aesthetic charms – some day people will look up at my balcony in amazement, wondering, if just for a few moments, how they got so green.