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Soft Goods
Lauren Matthews

Photo by  Evan Qu  on  Unsplash

Photo by Evan Qu on Unsplash

Pets and a garden work wonders as allies through transitions. I don’t mean large ones, like a death or a move or a birth, though I’m sure they’re good during those too, I mean quotidian ones to which you’d think you’d be able to adjust all by yourself, but in fact, without soft allies, you don’t.

If upon getting home from work every day you have to feed the cat or water the backyard vegetable patch, you are forced to do something perfunctory and uncomplicated which will ease you through this transition. You do not have time to consider a decision because the decision is made for you. This is crucial to forestalling panic. Left to your own devices, who knows what wild ideas you’d resort to, believing them to be smart in the moment. Still worse is when you wouldn’t resort to anything at all, paralyzed by transitory analysis.

Putting food in a cat bowl is uncomplicated, requires no thought but some focus, so your unconscious mind can begin to consider unraveling some problems as your conscious mind Checks A Thing Off A List. Turning on the hose and swirling it over the kale is mindless, but it mandates your body move and you stand outside in the outside, and so as you Accomplish Tasks and Take Care of Things, you are gently and subconsciously persuaded to take care of you as well. To once again water and feed yourself, even if it is boring.

Better still, midway through the chore you are rewarded with a purring nudge or the smell of wet dirt, maybe even of future tomato, and thereby brought back into your body and the beauty of the world. And some florid or faunal being has felt better because of your small effort, and maybe even shown gratitude, and you realize that it’s only about the littlest gestures, and it’s only about giving what you can, and if no one else is going to do that for you tonight, if you did it for the cat and the rhododendron you can damn well do it for yourself.

Incidentally it will make you go home at all after work, which is grounding and pleasant and cause for pause, forcing you to care for your home and yourself, instead of run out to a bar or a dinner or an event, which, though it sounds fun, and though you really might, this time, meet the person of your dreams if you just go for a little while, you will get home late again after too much to drink and not enough money and you will feel strung out and hopeless. Whereas a plant is pure hope.

Lauren Matthews is a writer and designer in California. More work can be found at