Letting hope take root, even in the shifting sands of politics

Erna Mahyuni
·3-min read

NOVEMBER 4 — I love gardenias. I have loved them ever since my family moved to a house with a tall gardenia tree, with its dark leaves and heavy-scented blooms that still live in my memories.

My mother bought me a little gardenia plant when I visited one time; we'd walked the rounds of Gaya Market on Sunday and I mentioned I wanted one, but oh, how would I take one home?

She bought one for me anyway.

It's against regulations to bring over flora between West and East Malaysia without a permit so I contented myself with taking a flowered stem, placing it between the pages of a book.

Still I wondered if I could still grow a cutting and yes, within a week my stem had roots and thus my gardenia flourished... until I accidentally repotted it in an over-large pot.

The original gardenia plant in Sabah has since been stolen — I suppose even thieves know a good gardenia specimen when they see one.

I have two new plants now, bought from Penang through Shopee. They arrived withered, leaves insect-ridden though thankfully alive.

The first two months they kept threatening to die on me but after a lot of feeding (gardenias are as demanding as GLC/Cabinet post-hungry politicians) and murdering a dozen caterpillars, one plant is flowering at least once a week and the other? Well.

I wonder if I should start making menacing threats to the other plant that despite the same care and feeding, bloomed once and then never again.

Of course I still water it anyway.

The blooms are not as pretty as my former plant; the flowers are smaller, the petals ill-formed and scarcer.

Yet when I inspect my plants each morning and am rewarded with the old familiar scent of my childhood, I am reminded that sometimes some things are worth the effort.

Tending to my gardenias reminds me that there are still things to be grateful for. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni
Tending to my gardenias reminds me that there are still things to be grateful for. — Picture by Erna Mahyuni

That we still need to hold on to the good things, still strive to grow movements and ideas to better the world even in these times of constant flux and the near-daily displays of idiocy from our politicians.

I need the comfort of my flowers now more than ever as my mother has just told me there was a Covid case at the house just across from hers.

The wolves are at the door and I am too far away to fight them.

This state of foreboding and helplessness isn't just my experience; it's how anyone who understands that this is not “just the flu” is feeling when dealing with a government bereft of competency and not even good at building morale.

What else can I do but water my plants, call my mother and bide my time?

I hope that we all can find something to hold onto right now, whether it's ideals, a personal project or even just a stubbornly flowering potted plant.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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