Earthworms’ Castings

With Jean Ponzi


Water is Life!

Experts at NASA, who know how living stuff works in space, shout out to H2O: our essential physical functions are all sustained by water’s unique chemical and physical properties. Without water, we humans could not breathe, digest or move a muscle. 

Our cells would shrivel up and die, including our precious brains, which are 73% water. Poetically, that’s the same as our hearts. Even our bones contain water, about 31%. 

Recall the old joke: Water invented people as a way to move itself around. Though we are not water’s only friend. Water pals equitably all around the Circle of Life.

Most plants are 90-95% water. For them as for animals, water regulates temperature and transports nutrients. Animals orally take a drink. For a vascular plant, it’s literally bottoms-up: sucking water from their roots by capillary action, through tubes called xylem vessels, up and out into leaves where water can escape through stomata, tiny holes that open for the plant to cool down, letting each plant do its part in Earth’s fabulous Water Cycle, as transpiration carries plant droplets up into the clouds. 

Elegant! Efficient! One could say Eco-Logically generous. 

Nature gives water to plants through dew and rainfall. Where they grow in service to human needs, the scale of our part in that bargain runs from irrigation systems down to you or me with a sprinkling can. 

Getting water to plants we grow is a Sacred Human Duty. Rain gauges and weather reports advise watering “our” plants outdoors. For indoor plants, our water cycle directive is Just Do It! Weekly, with awareness of specific plant needs.

I keep filled jugs ready to counteract my tendency to neglect. Clear juice bottles are great; they’re tall, with a compact base. Milk jugs have handles, but the gallon size is heavy to heft to plants in hanging baskets. Screw-on caps prevent accidental mopping.

After every watering round, I refill right away. No excuse for no water handy when anyone droops. Plus chlorine in tap water settles out while the filled bottles sit. Better for the plants and me. 

The building I work in, the Commerce Bank Education Center, is alive with indoor plants. This unofficial Missouri Botanical Garden collection is owned by employees and adopted from our friends. We have eight small trees! The ledge along our lobby window-wall is a vibrant wall of foliage. Oxygen in the vestibule is richer than outdoors.

They are tended by one botanist, who works in the plant genetics lab. Dr. Burgund Bassuner weekly takes one for our human and botanical teams, by watering these dozens of plants.

This is no small feat. When I covered for her winter vacation week, watering took me nearly an hour. OK, maybe I was dallying, admiring them too. 

Way back in March, when work-sequester began, Burgund thought she would keep coming in to tend experiments once a week. She offered to water individuals’ plants along with our lobby forest. Some of our office plants went home, but many were grouped on tables in one south-facing sunny conference room, hoping for the best.

Burgund, a native of Berlin, has a magical way with leafy green. Weaklings revive and the hardy flourish in her care. But would she be allowed to come in? Would her health hold? 

Wonderful Dr. Bassuner has tended the Garden’s genetic samples, and every single growing individual in our working space, through these months of viral freeze. One other colleague allowed to go in reported that our building’s plants look better than ever. 

Thanks to one person, over weeks of hours, faithfully watering.

Reciprocity, growing beauty and liveliness for all. Teaching us the value of exchange. 

Water — for plants and us — is Life. 

And Life is all about the flow of kindness, Water, and mutual care.

Jean Ponzi keeps up conversational flow through her Earthworms podcasts, coming to us weekly through KDHX St. Louis Independent Media. Tap into Green ideas at www.kdhx.org.