Green Thumb

Back in April, my CMO brought dozens of young tomato plants into the office. She’d grown too many at home, she said, and was giving away all sorts of varieties to any takers. I was gifted with a variety called White Beauty, and, of course, an Italian one called San Marzano.

This was a great reason to start the herb garden I’d intended on last summer, but never quite got around to. Inspired by the seemingly effortless backyard gardens in Italy, I’d found motivation again. Nonna was constantly pointing out the blooming peperoni (bell peppers), or arance (oranges), or some newly sprouted seasonal plant in her garden. Mamma had even made me tisane* when I got a cold – all from plants in her garden. I loved the idea of picking fresh thyme and rosemary to season dinner (or make tea) with. Thus began the quest to find my green thumb.

I got ambitious. I picked up potting soil, an oversized watering pot, and fertilizer. Thyme, rosemary, and basil plants too. I thought to get sage and oregano, but held back considering I’d never done this before; I didn’t want to get overly ambitious! Until I saw the dwarf lemon plant. Then I got ambitious all over again. I mean, how do you turn down a dwarf lemon plant? (It’s a hybrid of Meyer Lemon, orange and mandarin.)

My patch of green: Basil peeks out from behind the lemon (hamming it up) and the tomato photo bombs them in the background.

My patch of green: Basil peeks out behind the lemon, as a tomato plant photo bombs them.

And so started the little potted garden on my patio. Tomato, basil, rosemary, thyme, and a my little dwarf lemon hybrid. I fretted over being a horrible gardener for the first month or so, as I couldn’t seem to get the formula right. Too little water. Too much sunshine. Too much water. Too little sunshine. Then, one day, new leaves began to sprout. More and more came; suddenly there was enough basil for pesto, and I’d open my blinds in the morning to discover a little jungle!

In the early days, it felt like the plants, hovering between wilting and blooming, were a reflection of me. My too-soon return to California had thrown me back into a reality I was fighting to re-assimilate into. I wanted to be back in Italy. But as I got reacquainted with the area, caught up with friends, and adjusted back into work life, I began to find a content sort of balance. It was a different kind of happy, but it’s at least a more calm state of mind than I was in pre-career break. After all, it’s all a state of mind, right? And now, much like my thriving plants, much like my hair regaining its length, I too am undergoing a period of major personal growth.


*Fun fact: Tisane is the same word in Italian; it’s just pronounced differently. While English opts for a duosyllabic ti-zan, Italian goes trisyllabic with tee-zah-neh.