Making paper

It was a gift from a friend. Though sadly gone now, I still think of her frequently and with deep admiration.

The papyrus, I was told, would bloom frequently (or was it constantly?) once settled a bit, producing flowers that I could easily sprout when replanted.

It didn’t. Never a single solitary bud.

The leaves were attractive though, a nice contrast to all the other plants crowding the southern window. Most seem to thrive in that light though, as I write, my treasured lollipop which has bloomed vigorously at surprising times seems to have given up the ghost. (Did I treat it differently? I fed it nutritiously recommended goodies. I know it never suffered neglect — or a lack of appreciation. Or was it saying that it produced so many “lollipops” — and so quickly too — during this past summer that it just wore itself out. I can understand that, too.)

One miniature rose which was totally neglected all last summer long is putting up quite a struggle now. I do feel the odds of survival are in its favor.

It’s just one more mystery in a day filled with them. This morning’s: why do the bottom of dog food and soup cans rust so quickly when those for the cat never do at all?

Turning back to the papyrus which I once read really isn’t a papyrus at all, no more than a close relative. Close enough for me. Over time it grew root-bound — or, perhaps not, for new stems continue to pop up daily. It probably would be happy being transplanted or maybe just given a sudden death. Thalassa Cruso has no problem tossing many of her houseplants in the heap. I, however, do not favor euthanasia for any of my plants — nor for any healthy thing.)

Not caring one whit for my opinion, this papyrus continued to prosper. Perhaps shorter than before (I really can’t remember) it stops now at just under three feet. I think that’s a quite respectable size for a house plant. The fig, hyacinth and the bananas would disagree. It’s OK — I have space for all.

I kept the article about making paper from it but really . . .

The Romans learned from the Egyptians and Pliny the Elder gave us directions in the first century B.C. One begins by slitting each stalk into strips. Soak them in water then until they become clear. Lay those strips on a piece of cloth, layer with a second perpendicular strip. These are then pressed between something absorbent. Newspaper or cardboard is recommended. Expect it to dry in about three weeks.

Funny. I have kept these directions but grown no closer to having a desire to spend weeks making paper. I could alibi that I lack room. Mainly just a desire (or the time).

The article (which illustrates a flowering plant) tells me it should grow happily just in water. Bits chopped off the tops can be started as new shoots. If one really wants more.

Much of my papyrus is happy to stretch toward the ceiling with its twelve (give or take) green fingers. But much doesn’t. While I’m better at reaching to my toes, lots of the branches of the papyrus bend down at what approximates a right angle — if not a little more.

This has gone on long enough that I stopped questioning its motivation. Too many plants in the pot? Too much water? or not enough? The plant food didn’t agree with it? Or, perhaps, simply a seasonal affliction.

I may have been too hard on myself, if not on the plant, until one day I heard unusually noises coming from that direction. What was there? Nothing by the time I could come to look. But it kept happening.

Gloria! The black cat sat beneath the papyrus projecting such innocence! Why would she do anything to that plant? Or any plant for that matter? It didn’t appear to be edible (or eaten). I’ve never seen her take a bite — nor do the leaves show any indication of having been chewed on.

She’s back again. It’s become a regular morning exercise (is it a pleasure?) even before she gets her breakfast and long before she’ll join Minor and me to walk down for the papers.

Yet it seems a morning must — sitting there swatting random branches until they keel over. What’s up?

How does one ask a cat?

Susan Crossett has lived outside Cassadaga for more than 20 years. A lifetime of writing led to these columns as well as two novels. Her Reason for Being was published in 2008 with Love in Three Acts following in 2014. Information on all the Musings, her books and the author may be found at She may also be contacted at