On the great purge, house plants, and enduring creatures.

Around the year 2009, I found myself aggressively simplifying, eliminating and organizing - mostly the first two, since upon the simplifying and the eliminating, there was little left to organize. I call this period “the great purge”, and if it evokes a decadent horror-movie feel, you could not be more mistaken.

This was a period of cleansing. Of piece. This was the initiating point when I consciously acknowledged the need for minimalism as the necessary means of survival, and began to plainly consider superfluous content as vice. Soon after, my office workspace became nearly empty. I didn’t want as much as a visible leaflet of paper that didn’t have an immediate use. Nothing of unnecessary writing utensils, stress balls, extra notebooks, toys, food-takeout boxes.

The few objects that remained, many to be further eliminated with time, I positioned at perfectly measured 90-degree angles. This naturally included my computing setup with one monitor, a folder organizer for a handful of folders I frequently accessed, and a stack of books for which I found no other immediate home, later to became the means to elevate my keyboard for an improvised standing-desk environment.

Cleaning the dust became a 2-minute chore. I felt a certain ease at being able to take deep breaths. There was now ample space to fully sit on top of the desk, and probably to lay on it lengthwise in time of need. Strangely, I left an oversized simple-function calculator on the surface. One of those calculators that measured around 12’ x 8’ inches, with buttons spacious enough for an overweight house cat to operate. Imagine that.

I also cultivated a couple of plants on the desk surface to contrast the otherwise industrial office setting. I wanted a tiny piece of nature at an arm’s reach.

Since I knew little of house plant care, after some research, I settled on a couple of plants that required little hassle. Plants that were hard to kill. Plants that you could forget about, as long as you water them on a rare occasion.

One was a Sansevieria Trifasciata, otherwise nicknamed the snake plant in English. It featured those vertical, rigid sword-like leafs, which, from the right angle resemble a contour of a snake, a creature I always felt a certain admiration towards. One day I might consider a snake as a house pet. Meanwhile, the plant became a formidable substitute.

The other was a bamboo plant, scientifically known as the Dracaena Sanderiana. Similar to the snake plant, beyond the occasional watering, the plant took pride in it’s self-reliance. Additionally, it was said to enhance the energy of the surroundings. Now, I don’t know if as a direct consequence of the bamboo or other unrelated factors, but the energy did improve in the times to come.

The bamboo inspired another somewhat unusual side-effect. I felt an increasing desire to eat the plant leaves, and this caused me some unease. Naturally, I consume plants all the time, but the difference felt quiet considerable between eating a plant of anonymous origin for dinner, and eating my office companion. Having consulted a colleague on the matter, it was suggested I include more green leaves in my diet. I followed the advice, and the burden eased with time.

I already enjoyed vegetables in my nutrition, but since that point, I began to consider a diet with much focus on (especially) dark green vegetables not only an absolute necessity, but also rich in taste. For those of you struggling to eat sufficient green vegetables, perhaps a bamboo plant might inspire the right craving.

I have particular respect for plants (and beings in general) that can endure a harsh environment. Beyond the couple of plants I had acquired for my desk and since parted with, I have much admiration for succulents (cacti). These creatures are built for survival in a desert or otherwise water-scarce conditions. I’ve now learned that the spider plant actually belongs to the agave family of succulents.

Agave… The life source of the Mexican spirits tequila and mescal. Mescal, especially, is among my top favorites. I spent a month in Oaxaca, Mexico, the source of mescal production, on the simple basis of being surrounded by succulents and this delightful beverage. Is that a strange premise for choosing a destination to spend a month in? …being a person who scarcely drinks alcohol and rarely embarks on nature trips or hiking?

In some traditional settings, Mescal is served with a worm placed inside the glass. I’m not sure of the roots behind this tradition. Presumably it’s a dead worm, but who can be sure of anything in this mysterious world? By great fortune, I avoided traditional settings in my getaway. If one day I find myself in a prison camp with few means of survival, I might consider feeding myself on worms if a bottle of Mescal happens to roll within my grasp.

As far as creatures in beverages, I prefer the variety with a scorpion on the opposite rim of a glass as you consume the beverage. Some exotic regions of the world have popularized this daring style of drinking alcohol. To be clear, and I have been asked to clarify the point on occasion, I speak of a living scorpion, intently staring you in the eyes in contemplation… whether it should poke one of them, while you consume your drink in suspense. Except in the last such conversation, I managed to confuse a scorpion for a crab, feeling doubtful on the prospect of situating a crab on the rim of a glass, and yet unable to recollect the word scorpion.

You know the class of my favorite enduring creatures? The Freemen, from the Arrakis planet written about by Frank Herbert. They are fictional, I realize. But the Freemen have mastered the harsh desert environment in a way no other group had managed. They manufacture distillation suits to recycle their bodily fluids, the bulky nature of which, I’m led to believe, is not the most comfortable for moving around in a desert. But that hasn’t stopped them from becoming the quickest and most deadly assassins in the known universe. And rather than submerging worms into beverages, they have learned to saddle their worms as a form of transportation. Slightly larger worms. Sand worms as extensive in length as a moderately sized village, and respectively destructive. The Freemen also consider water as sacred, belonging to the people rather than the individual. They extract all water from their dead before burying them. Freemen also feature blue eyes with no pupils from constant exposure to a native, chemically addicting mineral. Well, extremist groups tend to have a few peculiarities.

One day, as I was following a pedestrian street in San Francisco, I discovered a patch of small 10-15 cm tall succulents planted in front of an art store. The street showed no other visible evidence of exotic plant species, containing otherwise entirely homogeneous growth. The tiny creatures must have felt as alien as a kitten in a hog pen. But they persevered, as a succulent must. I wonder what became of them since?