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Despite This We Stay for march 14, 2013

by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO — No matter how green your thumb is, it’s near impossible to raise houseplants in Huerfano County.
When we moved here from California, my houseplants were lush and gorgeous – like a model’s hair in a shampoo commercial. I had palm trees, vines, orchids, African violets, a dwarf lemon tree. But one by one they shrank down to mere ghosts of their former selves then perished, gasping and wheezing, trying to suck some life from the Huerfano air. But there is nothing in the air around here but dust, static and anti-humidity. The humidity here is so low, the top layer of soil is like moon dust. It’s so low that “xeriscape” is the best word to describe our skin.
At first, I tried. I tried to get my houseplants to grow. But when I poured water on the soil around my plants, the water just ran away. It didn’t know what to do. The soil was hard as a rock, and even water knows when it’s defeated. I bought a couple of those glass bulbs that you fill with water and shove into the soil – sort of force-feeding the plant water. No good. So I shifted to trying to just get the plants to live – even if they didn’t grow. Even if they just sat there and looked sad. Which they did.
You know how some people talk to their plants? Well the plants started talking to me – “Throw me in the trash,” they would say. “Anything is better than this slow death!” At that point I was simply hoping they would survive until I could plant them outside for the summer. I know, that probably wouldn’t have helped much, but it did give me hope. For a while.
Honestly, I don’t know how ANYTHING grows here, although I’m thankful it does. Otherwise it would look (more) like the Gobi Desert. Sometimes I’m surprised to look out the window and not see camels grazing in what used to be a hayfield. Sure, we have some greenery, but very little of it at that. And the only thing I can get to exist indoors are cacti. Cacti don’t expect much – and frankly they don’t get much. They do, however, get adobe bugs trying to navigate their spines to suck out some life sustaining juice, as if a cactus has much to spare. After being cooped up in the house for five months breathing the same dry air we do and eating carpet fibers to stay alive, the adobe bugs are thirsty too. When they don’t have a cactus handy, they just consume the juices in each other’s dead carcasses, their demise no doubt caused by choking on carpet fibers.
And for those of you who might say, “Well maybe you just can’t raise houseplants.” I reject that possibility completely. I am absolutely POSITIVE it’s a Huerfano thing.