Over the past year, I’ve been thinking a lot about aging. It’s not a constant thought — just one of those nagging inner voices that likes to pop up every so often. I think it’s because of my thumbs.
I always wanted to be a deejay. When I was younger, I had two turntables, a mixer, and crates and crates of vinyl records.
There was one small problem, though. I never wanted to get fingerprints or scratches on any of the records — which was why my vinyl collection remained in pristine condition, and the only deejaying was in my own mind.
Still, when it comes to thinking up headlines for posts, I often turn to music for inspiration — and this post about my aloe was no different. I began with “Aloe, I Love You,” courtesy of The Doors — because, I do love this plant.
Mine was a gift from Joe’s sister, Donna. She gave it to me years and years ago — and for those years and years, it was a typical northern houseplant, a solitary presence in a clay pot, brought outside in summer and over-wintered indoors.
I was thrilled to have an aloe — practical and beautiful, medicinal and magical. Each day seems to bring about new wondrous uses for the gel inside each of its pointy, succulent leaves.
The problem is that snapping off an aloe leaf to soothe a burn or an abrasion was never my first thought. No, I’d rather run for a bandage or even a store-bought “aloe” lotion than risk damaging the plant.
It was my deejaying debacle all over again — although this time I knew my being a gardener wasn’t an imaginary mind game. I just didn’t want to take advantage of a plant. I wanted it to be pristine.
But something exciting happened after bringing the aloe to Florida, where this houseplant could stay out all year long. Of course, there was the initial shock, but in time, the green became more vibrant and smaller aloes began to pop up all around the mother plant.
My clay pot for one had become my clay pot for many, and I wondered: Is this what aloe is supposed to do? It actually makes more plants on its own?
Then, Adele arrived with this lyric, “Hello, from the other side” — and I began to contemplate what was happening beneath the soil of said clay pot. In other words: Aloe, from the underside.
Just like removing a vinyl disc from its sleeve, I gently tapped the aloe from the only home it has ever known. And just like holding a record by its edges and turning it over to examine it for any imperfections, I observed and marveled at what was hidden by the clay pot.
The houseplant I had always counted on to be a solo artist was more like a member of a band. Once unpotted, the lead singer — for want of a better term — had developed a lengthy root system, each one traveling in a circle to match the shape of the clay pot.
It’s at this point that all record and deejaying analogies come to an end. While I may be a deejay in my mind, in reality, I’m a gardener —- and unlike my treatment of vinyl, I wanted to scratch at the soil, to separate the roots and smaller plants a bit, to clip and cut and leave my mark.
As I began, I first noticed that the thicker roots were actually runners, some of them ending with a small aloe plant — and each of these had its own set of roots and runners.
The larger of the small aloes were easily separated from the main plant, but the smaller ones needed some clipping.
I lined up pots of all sizes, as well as some hollowed out coconuts, for planting — so that each of the aloes could be a star in their own right — and, in time, fill out and make more plants.
The aloe that started it all was returned to its clay pot, now a bit roomier, so that it too could once again produce more plants.
At the end of the day, when it came time to reflect on what I had learned about aloe propagation and a headline, it seemed to make sense to name this post: “Aloe, ‘ow are you?” It’s really the question I asked myself — with a cockney accent, because a name like aloe kind of begs for that — whenever I looked at the clay pot filled with plants.
That being said, it’s time to bring my tale of aloe to a close — and in the sort-of words written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney: “You say goodbye, and I say aloe.”