City-ing No. 6: Winter greens

Chicago is notorious for frigid wind chill, lake effect effects, snow drifts the size of your car in your usual parking spot, and a basic polar vortex all season. Although things have been milder than usual this year, I’m still feeling tired of all the bundling up, wind biting my face, wool socks on repeat. Everything feels harder in the winter, the getting out of bed, the getting out the door, the getting your car dug out from its snowman state. Even the practical act of bundling and unbundling everytime you need to walk through the door steals minutes from the day. And lugging your coat around a too-warm store or museum should be a circle of hell, if you know what I’m saying. If you feel winter like I do, I’m sure you also have been adding some extra special self-care tactics to the roster since January hit. More hot bubble baths than usual, warm soups for dinner, lingering a few extra moments in a friend’s warm apartment, cappuccino and cookies at a favorite neighborhood Italian deli, a new scarf or mittens, and, for me, an accumulation of GREEN! When it seems like all the green things in the outside world have died, I recommend a little hoarding. Plant-hoarding that is. And a little hustling, but we will get to that later. Grab all the green things and green places you can find and gather them to yourself. Get that extra oxygen into your life!

Self-care tactic ONE: Plant-hoarding

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I always admire the houses I see that have a whole windowsill of plants peeking out at the road. I think to myself, the sorts of people who care about keeping plants alive are usually pretty good people. I want to be that sort of person. A plant person. I have all sorts of nurturing in me that I don’t know what to do with. Might as well mother some plants.

Isaiah and I bought some tiny plants at our favorite neighborhood plant shop (Sprout Home in Ukranian Village, seriously check it out), transferred them to bigger pots from Goodwill, and hoped for the best, worried that the winter would steal the sun away and our healthy plants along with it.

I’m thrilled to say that our plants are thriving! (For the most part. Our grocery store moneytree had a little run-in with -20 windchill, leaving the tiny veins in the leaves to freeze and shrivel. We are currently nursing it back to health.) These little green guys have been a serious bright spot for me this winter, and I relish my time checking on them every morning, touching their leaves, clearing dead parts away, watering often but not too often, and talking to them, of course. They have me conjuring dreams of a rooftop vegetable and flower garden in the summertime – fresh tomatoes, pansies, wildflowers, greens. Maybe someday. But for now, tiny plants on the windowsill slowly getting bigger and bigger, searching for sunlight. A lot like how I feel.

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A few months ago, my sister-in-law, Laurel, gave us a handful of marigold seeds. I don’t have much experience growing things from seed (or growing anything at all, for that matter), so I sort of just threw them in a pile of dirt and hoped for the best. Every morning I would stare at the box of dirt, scanning for any sign of a little green shoot (cue Joni Mitchell’s “Little Green.” Just sang it in my head.) It seemed like my little marigolds were doomed, until one day up they shot! I truly didn’t think they would ever flower, especially because it has been a particularly dark winter in Chicago. But, lo and behold: blooms! Quite a few of them, small and orange and lovely! My own little suns! I think literally every person in America needs a little box of marigolds on their windowsill in the winter. We’d all be a little sunnier. It would be my platform if I were running for president. Marigolds for the masses!!!

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See? It’s perfect! A miracle of a marigold! I can’t be grumpy looking at this picture!

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Isaiah has gathered up some unconventional plant containers in his many travels. I love watching the roots of this spider plant finding their way down this *borrowed* volumetric flask (thanks Neil). Someday we will plant it for real, but for now it’s our own experiment, a lovely x-ray that lets the sun through. I love the height of it, the variety it gives to our windowsill plant menagerie.

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Other windowsills needed love too! This little plant isn’t doing so hot, but we’ve been trying to nurse it back to health. Every windowsill needs a plant. They go together.

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When all else fails, dried flowers are always bright and lovely, especially if you can find ones that are vibrant and well-preserved. This is my wedding bouquet, and it still looks nearly as brilliant as it did on my wedding day. They’re low-maintenance and gorgeous. In Chicago, Sprout Home has a small but nice variety of dried flowers to choose from, and if you ever find yourself in Pittsburgh, don’t leave before checking out Roxanne’s Dried Flowers, perhaps my favorite little shop in America. That’s where I got my wedding flowers, and it was truly a dream come true. Dried flowers are magic.


Self-care tactic TWO: Plant-hustling

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Now, if you don’t feel ready to bring the plants to you, you can bring yourself to the plants! Winter is the perfect time to find indoor oasises, green space, warm bright rooms. Isaiah and I recently made our way to Chicago’s own oasis, Garfield Park Conservatory, which is deliciously free and always gorgeous. It’s amazing, it’s gorgeous, it’s FREE. Literally, shake yourself out of your winter stupor and make your way there. The air is warm, the plants are green, there’s running water and leaves to touch. I saw a lot of moms with little kids wandering around the plant zoo. They have the right idea, I think.

Spend some extra time in the Fern Room and Desert Room. The fern room is literal magic and the music in the desert room makes me want to dance (being careful not to bump into any cactuses.)

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I have a special love for leaves that look painted.

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There are some pretty cool art installations at the conservatory right now, definitley worth a visit.

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Leaves with pink, sign me up!

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We wondered how they make the trees not grow too tall. The tallest ones reach almost all the way up to the glass ceiling!

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So much green and light.

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Love you desert room! Thanks for the funky tunes!

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We left the conservatory and reentered the grey winter world, feeling a little stronger, a little warmer, a little more ready. Find your way to some green, friends. Plant some things in some dirt. It’s good.


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