Image of a hobbit jade plant with black text on a green background. Text reads Listening to Nature, Combatting Productivity Culture.

Listening to Nature, Combatting Productivity Culture

Author’s note: There’s a new voice on the blog! I’m Ashton Rose, a student at Macalester College and friend of Rachel’s. I’ll be contributing my own content from time to time, as there are a lot of topics that both Rachel and I enjoy discussing. Freelance writing has been my field since 2019, and I am currently providing writing services. I specialize in SEO-driven blog posts about writing, gardening, and mental health. I also do creative work, which often explores the complexities of human connection and identity, and tends to lean toward magical realism and character-driven stories. If you’d like to learn more, you can check out my website, Instagram, or Facebook page.

So, now that we’ve gotten introductions out of the way… let’s talk about plants! (Rachel invited me to do this post because they’ve been able to kill infamously invasive bamboo.) 

As spring crept its way around the corner, fighting through the end of winter’s embrace, I decided it was time to do some indoor gardening. Many of my plants needed bigger pots and some needed separating. I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep all of them.

A bamboo plant in a windowsill, with a stick that says boo.
My bamboo, thriving in the bathroom’s humidity

At the same time, I’ve been reading Gathering Moss by Robin Wall Kimmerer, as well as getting to know the Wildwood Tarot deck. I’m learning to engage with the natural world more slowly, and I view my gardening as an act of resistance to the pressure of productivity. 

Intentional Gardening: A Practice of Nurture 

Like many LGBTQ plant enthusiasts, I had my days of adopting any plant I could get my green little hands on. From Home Depot to trash day, I was always on the lookout for new additions to my family. Every window and sunny surface covered in vines, leaves, and stems. 

Don’t get me wrong, I loved it. But it often meant I learned about a plant after adopting it. For a while, I tried to get my plants to adapt to my space. Now, I want to find plants that fit my space without having to force them in. 

I know the native regions and habitats of most, if not all, of my plants. Many of them have names. Each interaction with them is how I like to spend time in nature: slow, deliberate, and caring. 

Listening to Nature Sharing its Needs 

Begonia plant against a white wall on a wooden floor.
Spotted Begonia, which grows like a weed

There’s a reason I like to learn the native habitats of my plants: it’s a starter to figuring out their care. The closer I can get their environment to one their ancestors were used to, the happier they will be. 

But I do not live in South Africa, or the rainforests of South America. So there will be some amount of negotiation. How do I know what each of them needs in a place so far from their home? 

I listen. I pay attention to the positioning of their leaves, to the color they put out. They get regular check-ups of their root systems. I notice the direction, intensity, and speed of their growth. 

These are, of course, only the physical signs. In listening to nature, I like to attune my spirit to the world around me. To be receptive to the subtle cues of communication across species. To sit in meditation with my plants is to have a pensive conversation with an old friend. 

Each of these plants is telling a story, and it’s that story I want to learn. I’m a creature of tales, from LGBTQ stories to sprawling sci-fi epics. I tell my own stories to the plants, and, if I’m lucky, they tell me theirs. 

Plants and Slowness: My Tool Belt for Productivity Culture 

All of my friends have heard me ramble about nature and mental health, especially LGBTQ mental health. I’ve long believed that nurturing another living thing is one of the best ways to show care to yourself. And whether it’s a cultural phase or a deeper connection, it seems like a lot of LGBTQ folks are drawn to plants. 

Now I know that plants serve so many more roles. Kimmerer writes of paying attention to an organism’s place in the ecosystem to understand how it might help humans. This has been the basis behind many systems of herbalism and natural medicine. One thing I’ve come to learn from my plants is that most of them favor slow, careful growth as a strategy for long-term survival. They’re practicing sustainability in their own way. 

Productivity culture tells us that we only have value when we’re producing; that we can’t rest until we’ve checked off our entire to-do list. It leads to burnout and heaps of other challenges. As a self-supporting autistic person who hasn’t graduated college yet, I feel its pressure around me every day. 

But my plants don’t feel this pressure. My hobbit jade only grows a few inches a year. My ginger sometimes waits months to send out new rhizomes. When I prune my pencil cactus, it takes time to heal before sprouting new branches. 

A hobbit jade plant in a windowsill with a blurred background.
Hobbit Jade, growing slowly but surely.
A pencil cactus in a windowsill with a blurred background. A ceramic cat hangs from the pot.
Pencil cactus, pruned and re-shaped over time.

This is how I find a respite from productivity culture. It’s comforting to know that our evolution wired us to play the long game, and we share that with the surrounding world. Every time I spend hours gardening, carefully unpotting, inspecting, and repotting each plant, I do it slowly. In those moments, I’m not meeting a productivity goal. I’m doing something to enrich myself and the natural world I’m a part of. 

Of course, this isn’t the only way to push back against notions of productivity. There are so many strategies that are unique to each of us. But I find it to be one of the easiest, because you can always listen to nature. If you don’t have houseplants, go outside and sit with a tree, some flowers, a patch of moss, even the grass. Take a moment to be slow, finding quiet comfort in the steady growth around you.


Have thoughts you want to add on to this post? Questions to be answered? We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or on Rachel’s Instagram/Facebook page.

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144 trans people we should talk about more than we talk about Caitlyn Jenner

Media stars and public figures coming out can be great for trans visibility, and I suspect it takes boatloads of courage to come out in a hugely public way no matter who you are. But I’m getting tired of seeing a news feed that’s all pics of Caitlyn Jenner, so here are some alternatives:

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nongthoomfairtex.jpg

Parinya Charoenpho on whose life the film “Beautiful Boxer” is based — go watch the film!

 

This wonderful list of 10 trans icons from around the world, including Parinya Charoenphol (and if you have not seen the film about her life, “Beautiful Boxer,” run to Netflix and watch it): http://www.towleroad.com/2015/06/10-trans-icons.html

Deva Ozenen who is running for a parliament seat in Turkey: http://www.naijapromo.net/2015/06/meet-transgender-woman-who-wants-to.html

Manabi Banerjee, India’s first trans college principal: http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2015/05/india-transgender-college-principal-150527080214140.htmlREAD MORE

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Kimchi for the innocent, the timid and the neurotic

Adapted from the Yummy Kimchi recipe suggested to me by Allison Moon and the recipe in “Brain Maker” by Dr. David Perlmutter. Altered to be more digestible to people who can’t tolerate FODMAP foods (like me) by removing all onions, leeks, scallions, garlic and the like. If you’re on a very strict FODMAP-avoidant diet, do not use the jicama either. (If you don’t know what that means, you probably don’t have to worry about it.)READ MORE

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Age & Time part 2: author edition

In a fun confluence of events, just after Kristin published my guest blog about inspired age math and how to not freak out about being over 40, my publisher asked me last week if I was under 35 so they could submit me for an award given to young authors.

I had to tell them I’m not under 35 (as you can see in the blog I wrote for Kristin, I’m 42). And then like every other adult in American culture, I freaked out for a little while thinking that I was too old and had waited too long to get published.

The inside of my head sounded like this: Why didn’t I get published younger? What kind of failure is it that I’m not eligible for a young authors award even though I only have two books out? What did I do wrong? Culminating in: Oh my God, I wish I’d been first published at 30, not 40!

Luckily I have a habit of at least trying to critically listen to my ego when it goes on a rant like that, so I delved more deeply into that statement.READ MORE

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Gut feelings: gluten sensitivity is complicated

This morning Business Insider ran a short video: “Gluten Sensitivity Proven False,” which makes a few good points and some dubious ones. First off, a more accurate title for the video would be: “One Study Shows Gluten Not a Factor in IBS Symptoms,” but that’s got a lot less drama to it. (Here’s the video if you’re curious.)

Basically, according to the video only 1% of Americans have Celiac Disease but about 30% report wanting to eat less gluten. Is there such a thing as “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” and how many of that 30% might have it? The bottom line in the video is there isn’t such a thing. The actual title of the video on the page is “The Science is in — Why Gluten Sensitivity is Probably Fake.” I get cranky when people cite “Science” when they really mean one study or a small group of studies and then use emotionally loaded words like “fake.”

My bottom line is this: self-care trumps all. If you feel better eating gluten-free or grain free or only foods that don’t begin with the letter “g,” then that’s what you should eat. Everyone is an individual. Just like there aren’t two one-size-fits-all genders, there aren’t one or two diets for all humanity. Digestion is extremely complicated (at least from the western medicine viewpoint). What works for you doesn’t necessarily work for someone else so if you want to take good care of the people in your life, listen to them and support them if they’re trying different dietary options to be healthier.

Now if you’re curious to see me deconstruct the study and talk about some interesting trends in health and eating, read on:READ MORE

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What is a meditation retreat like anyway?

 A friend asked me about the meditation retreat I just atteneed and I thought
that was probably a good topic for a blog. I’d been trying to learn to meditate since I was 15 (and
failing!). In 2004 I attended the first Meditating with the Body program with
Reggie Ray and actually started to learn to meditate in a way that works for
me. It’s different for everyone, but for me having a 6-month program with a
meditation instructor to ask questions and weekly assignments, plus a focus on
the body (including physically how to sit), really worked.

But enough backstory, what actually happens at a meditation
retreat? Well, we sit. And then we walk, really slowly, and then we sit again.
Sometimes we lie down.

READ MORE

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The Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors

Search engine optimization — SEO — may seem like alchemy to the uninitiated. But there is a science to it. Search engines reward pages with the right combination of ranking factors, or “signals.” SEO is about ensuring your content generates the right type of signals. Our chart below summarizes the major factors to focus on for search engine ranking success. The Search Engine Land Guide To SEO explains factors in more depth, with tips and a tutorial on implementing them. Read on!

via searchengineland.com

This is one of the absolutely most helpful guides I've seen about SEO. Not only does it remind me of what I need to pay attention to, but it's also a handy way to explain to clients the complexity of SEO.

I encourage you to click the title above and visit the Search Engine Land website where you can download your own copy. 

SearchEngineLand-Periodic-Table-of-SEO-large

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Survey Shows Publishing Expanded Since 2008 – NYTimes.com

BookStats, a comprehensive survey conducted by two major trade groups that was released early Tuesday, revealed that in 2010 publishers generated net revenue of $27.9 billion, a 5.6 percent increase over 2008. Publishers sold 2.57 billion books in all formats in 2010, a 4.1 percent increase since 2008.

via www.nytimes.com

YA fiction is up 6.6% and adult fiction up 8.8%. I like those numbers! And that's post-Harry Potter.

Speaking of which, seeing The Deathly Hallows parts 1 & 2 recently really demonstrated to me that ways in which novels can go so deeply into characters, moments and story arcs in a way you just can't get in a movie.

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