Just outside the outer door of my apartment building (and just about on every block of downtown Corvallis), there is a a garbage receptacle. My landlord designed it and it is brilliant in my opinion. Made of cement, it has two compartments–the lower one houses the actual garbage can and the upper one is reserved for planting flowers. There is just enough space for a little bit of soil and a few pansies or succulents. The outer cement housing is decorated artfully with glass mosaic.
Unfortunately some late-night customers of the bar across the street ‘planted’ cigarette butts in the planter atop this garbage receptacle. For the first year of life in this apartment, I’d walk out the door, see the ashtray/planter and silently complain about the jerks that misused the planter. It took me a year of complaining before realizing that I could do something about this problem.
Up until then, I kept thinking, “I wish the authorities would do something to fix this. I wish someone would plant some flowers there. I wish someone would make those people stop putting out cigarettes in the planter.” One year of this.
The problem: I didn’t see myself as an authority; as anyone who could do anything to solve any problem. I’m still working on it. Through some trauma in my life, I have come to think of myself as nothing and no one. This has made it tough to succeed in many things during the past two years.
I am working on it though, and after a year of walking out that apartment door and seeing that planter, the idea that I could plant flowers there struck me. Finally. Since I didn’t have funds to buy much in the way of plants/flowers, on my daily walks, I took starts from the other planters on other blocks. Mostly, I planted succulents since I wouldn’t need to water often. The most surprising thing about it all is–the plants are thriving and no one is using that planter as an ashtray anymore!
My friend likes to use a phrase when she hears negative thoughts spin through her mind: Remove and Replace. This ashtray to flower planter experience has given me a perfect image of this phrase. I can thrive when I remove the old negative ones and replace them with more helpful ones. Sometimes this idea helps me a lot. Now all I need to do is to pay attention to that planter when I walk out my apartment door each day. And water it occasionally.