Love and Light

These photos were taken after we’ve had our Monstera philodendrum for about eight months. They have both grown considerably from the six-inch tall, 3-4 leaf fledglings that we brought home last fall. While these plants are both thriving, the Monstera on the left is the plant that has gotten mostly artificial indoor light. It has been on an island in the center of our kitchen for most of its life until I recently decided to free up some space and give it a window seat. The artificial light caused the plant to grow more evenly outward than upward and it has not grown as tall or developed nearly as many leaves as the plant on the right, which has gotten consistent sunlight. This plant is in Richard’s office, and he turns it every so often to help maintain its balance. If he does not, the leaves soon start reaching for the window and they all begin slanting. His plant was repotted recently, and it is really starting to show us why this plant is called a Monstera.

Monstera can grow indoors with only an artificial light source, but they definitely grow faster and with a more dramatic flair when placed in a spot where they receive direct sunlight. All plants require light to convert water and carbon dioxide to their food. This is also how they produce oxygen. Natural sunlight contains all the colors of the rainbow that we can see and the wavelengths that we can not see. Sunlight is rich in blue and red hues, which are both extremely important to plant growth. Blue light helps plants grow leaves, while red light helps them produce flowers and fruit. Indoor lighting (such as from an overhead kitchen light) consists mainly of yellows and greens. Indoor LED lighting pales in comparison to the powerful spectrum carried in rays of sunlight.

While we have two very special Monstera so far, most of the other greenery we have indoors is artificial and placed simply for the aesthetic appeal. Faux plants thrive in any space they are put without needing light. They don’t require watering or other care, and they won’t sicken a pet that decides to dine on their leaves. They also can be potted in fun, decorative indoor planters. I am just starting my indoor planter collection. So far, we have two “face planters,” sometimes called “pot heads.” These planters are both made of resin. They have optional drainage holes at the bottom as well as felt pads to keep them from scratching table and counter surfaces. I ordered the mermaid planter because it encompasses my love of fantasy and mythical creatures, the ocean, a connection to nature, and the female spirit. The faux vines inside both planters were also ordered from Amazon. I was pleasantly surprised with the fullness, color, and how lifelike they ended up looking.

I ordered the cat planter specifically for the cat. Initially, it looked like a yellow fox to me, but I liked the look and concept of this planter so much that I ordered it used a little paint to customize it. We have a very special, indoor black cat who was a Christmas gift from an animal rescue shelter for one of my teen children. We weren’t allowed to have cats when we lived with my X, so this fuzzy little addition to our home made us all happy. The cat’s was named Mikey, and I believe he was named after a band member my daughter Ares was interested in at that time. Since Ares moved back to Illinois a few years ago, this cat has taken on the name Blinky, because of his adorable habit of slowly blinking back in response whenever he is spoken to, but I mostly call him Floof.

Black cats have a special place in my heart. They are (by far) the most likely to be euthanized in animal shelters because of the difficulty adopting them. In fact, they are 66% less likely to be adopted than bright-colored felines. Historically, black cats were associated with witchcraft, and some associate them with evil or bad luck. Superstition and the preference for a more photogenic companion are the biggest reasons these cats have such a hard time finding a good home. I root for the underdog and identify more with the “outcast” so it is not a mystery why I gravitate to black cats. When I was a teenager, I came across a very skinny black kitten at the home of an acquaintance who lived in the country. I promptly picked him up and took him home with me, to my mother’s horror. She made me wash him and I remember the water turning a color I had never seen before; a dark reddish brown, extremely dirty and flea-ridden. We named that cat Coal, and he was my favorite companion in life for a long time.

In addition to our current floof, we now have a second black cat who has found the food bowl on our back porch. He is a very cautious feral cat that we noticed one day and began feeding. He has become a little less skittish since we’ve given him a reliable food source, but he’s happy doing his own thing and doesn’t want human contact. He has gotten bolder and can be seen in the open light of day now patrolling our sidewalks and the fields around our property. He has calmed to the point that he sits still when I speak to him if I’m not too close, but he will still take off immediately if approached. Nevertheless, we appreciate his presence, respect his need for space, and give him as much attention as he will accept. I have started to think that maybe black cats gravitate towards my energy as much as I do to theirs.  Cats, domestic or feral (and especially black cats!), are just like plants and people–we all need love and light to grow.

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