I'm a Houseplant

Call me old-fashioned, but I think houseplants should die in the winter.

All my mother’s houseplants died in the winter. All my grandmother’s houseplants died in the winter. It’s natural. As natural as me forgetting to take a houseplant down from the freezing window sill, as natural as me forgetting to water a houseplant. That’s what I’m trying to say. You don’t have to do anything. You do nothing, and the plant dies. Nature. Left to it’s own devices, a houseplant will die in the winter. Nature. Like some kind of idiot-plant. Nature.

I’m a houseplant. I do nothing, and die every winter.

Some people embrace winter. This October I saw these people gathered on 104th street. There was hot chocolate and a fire and people making speeches. It was all to try to inspire people to get outside embrace winter, but I didn’t know that at the time. I just drove by them thought “those dear poor homeless people.”

I don’t embrace winter. I don’t even brace for winter. I ignore winter.

For example, it’s almost January and I don’t have a touque. I thought I had one somewhere, but I haven’t been able to find it or get around to trying to find it. I’ve ignored winter so well that I’ve almost made it all the way through without having to spend five minutes buying something that would make my entire head feel better for the next four months. I do have a glove though. I found it at the Kinsmen and now I put it on when I need to put gas in my car. My other hand goes in my pocket. My entire head freezes solid. It’s not the best system but it’s my system.

I think everyone should have a library card, because you never know when you’re going to need something to scrape your windshield with when your three dollar scraper breaks. I bought the three dollar scraper because I thought sixteen dollars was an absurd amount of money to spend on something I would use every day day for half of the year, every year from now until I die (any year now).

I’m trying to change. I know a lot of people say that a man can’t change, but I have a a deep, golden, powerful faith that a man can buy a second glove.

I almost bought one the other day when I was at MEC. I love MEC. I like to go there and look at all the outdoorsy stuff. I love outdoorsy stuff. It makes me feel outdoorsy. It makes me feel outdoorsy while (this is key) allowing my body to remain in the warm and wonderful indoorsey of the MEC building. If MEC didn’t have a warm and wonderful indoorsey, and was instead some sort of open-air market, I would never go. I wouldn’t even know what a MEC is. I would drive by and think, “those dear poor homeless people”.

I’ve been going to MEC enough for it to influence me. I know things about knives and base layers and chalk bags. When I see a cool ice pick I don’t immediately think “imagine ice-picking a person’s head.” I think “imagine ice-picking some ice.” The other day I bought a flint and steel. I used it to light some toilet paper on fire in my bathtub.

But I’m going to buy a bike next. They have these really neat bikes at MEC and I have this plan to take the insurance off my car and bike to work this summer. I’m so excited to buy this bike. I wish I could start now, but it’s still winter and really only crazy people ride their bikes in the winter.

The two crazy people I know who ride their bikes in the winter are my friend Davis and my neighbor Mike.

Davis is a winter guy. And a summer guy. He’s extremely both. Those two seasons define his world. He’s all about winter beers and winter music and summer movies and summer dishes with summery summer-squash salad. Every winter he’s out and about in his one-thousand dollar Helly Hansen jacket and every summer he’s out and about in a pair of shin-length shorts and nothing else. The only time’s he’s not around a lot are spring and fall. I think he uses this time to transform. It will be september and I’ll be like “Where’s Davis” and then Davis bursts through my door wearing snowshoes and sporting a full beard and talking about how he just finished winterizing his urban hybrid bike but still needs to get the disc brakes looked at or whatever.

Mike doesn’t ride a cool urban hybrid MEC bike with disc brakes. He rides a normal bike, the kind a middle-age blue collar dude would ride home, with bags of groceries hanging from the handlebars. The first time I met Mike was when I was moving into the building and he popped his head out into the hall to see who I was. He was chewing raw spaghetti. He shook my hand and now we’re neighbours.

I think Mike ignores winter, too. But not in the cowardly stupid dumbhead way I do. In a sensible, practical way. A two-gloves kind of way. When it’s cold, he puts on a coat. When it’s warm, he doesn’t. He rides his bike in the winter but not because he’s winterized, but because thats how he gets around, even if there happens to be snow today. He honestly might not know what month of the year it is. The guy could be trapped in a sort of amnesia-state, stuck somewhere around his 29th birthday for all I know. I swear he once asked me if I was worried about Y2K.

I’m trying to change. I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to embrace winter like Davis or those homeless people on 104th street. Maybe I’ll just learn to ignore it better. But I need to do something. I can’t stay inside doing nothing and dying like a houseplant, or feeling outdoorsy inside MEC or pumping gas with one glove and a frozen head. I have to go outside. I want to ice-pick a waterfall and see if it feels like I imagine.

Originally published in 2013 as part of 40 Below, an anthology about winter in Edmonton.