What’s Your Zeitgeber? Mine Is The Oxalis Triangularis Plant.

Time To Read: 5 mins


What cues you into your self-awareness? For me, it’s a particular plant.

Plants that seem to follow a circadian rhythm of waking and resting are objects of curiosity for me.

For years now I’ve marveled at my oxalis triangularis plant—otherwise known as the purple shamrock or love plant. The name, love plant, is fitting.

Apotheosis of natural beauty. It is the one plant that has held my gaze since I first encountered it years ago in my oldest daughter’s Montessori classroom.

Its lovely aubergine painted leaves, with rose-colored markings that flow forth like water stains from the center of each delicate leaflet, beckon me to take a step closer, to notice the subtleties of its beauty.

Each leaflet looks like the wingspan of a moth connected to each other at its tip as if by a wee spoke so that when all three leaflets drop down, the leaf resembles a kind of teepee with flared corners.

A bonus delight is the pink tiny blooms, shooting out in clusters from slim green stems amidst the dark leaflets. These blooms add another interesting shape to the geometric wonder of this plant.

Oxalis is the largest genus of the 900 known species of the wood sorrel family, Oxalidaceae, that thrive in Brazil, Mexico, and South Africa. It is a wild plant that offers edible tubers New Zealanders consume as yams and limited medicinal benefits that go back millennia.

It’s a special sight to behold as it rests on the counter of my kitchen bay window. It looks otherworldly.

I feel very drawn to this plant. It is an apotheosis of natural beauty in my opinion.

Besides its beauty, what I love about this plant is how it changes over the course of the day.

Its movement expresses an aliveness that I find fascinating.

After a night’s rest all its leaves and flowers slowly open, welcoming the light.

How amazing is that? As it welcomes the light, it’s a reminder that a new day is here and to embrace it with open arms.

By nightfall, the leaves and blooms turn into themselves, closing up shop.

What a delightful reminder! It’s time to break from work, to rest until the dawn of a new day.

My Zeitgeber is my love plant. The daily and seasonal patterns of light and dark, as well as temperature changes, serve as external cues or Zeitgebers for plants and animals.

According to Merriam-Webster, Zeitgeber means “time” (Zeit in German) and “giver” (Geber in German), or “time-giver.”

Humans create our own Zeitgebers through our work and school schedules, meal times, and other triggers to help keep us on our roughly 24-hour body clock.

I drink a lot of Earl Grey tea so I’m often at my electric kettle, which sits on the counter below and to the left of my love plant. Each time I make my tea I notice it.

Like the saying that the child who comes to your home is the one that teaches you what you most need to learn, my love plant triggers my self-awareness and teaches me to be kind to myself.

It’s my special Zeitgeber.

I look at my love plant and I’m reminded that I, too, have a daily, and even a weekly, cycle. Not only am I tied to a daily circadian rhythm like all of us, but I have also come to understand that I have productivity cycles.

My productivity dips and soars. I am now more aware of having weeks of great productivity where I can get much work done, followed by one or two weeks of low productivity where I’m still getting work done, but at a slower clip and with greater struggle.

When I’m in the middle of a great productivity cycle, I feel like I’m on fire and I keep stoking this fire by keeping my focus on the task at hand and getting things done one after the other.

I now tell myself to milk this energy for all I’ve got because I know that I’m going to hit a slump though I don’t know exactly when.

When a few days go by and I feel like I’ve been swimming in a pool of molasses, I know that I’m into my low productivity week, and not just feeling a little tired.

This awareness stops me from mentally whipping myself and pushing myself to do more. This awareness holds my sharpest self-criticism at bay.

I now recognize and accept that I’m in this productivity dip—that my energy level is low and my mind is on a lower gear.

I accept that I will accomplish less compared to my high productivity weeks.

I tell myself that it’s okay.

I remind myself that I have a productivity rhythm. My productivity dips and soars. That’s the way it is for me.

And, I nudge myself to feel grateful that I tend to soar a long while before a dip appears, and that this dip has a short duration before I’m soaring again.

This helps.

Rest is important. My love plant’s presence reminds me that I am part of the natural world—that I am a beautiful living thing.

All beautiful living things need to pause, to rest, to allow time for rejuvenation.

I am no exception.

This is a message that I know I must hear, but struggle to heed.

I like to keep busy. I find it difficult to relax.

I tend to work past the time that I should turn in even if I may complain later that, “I have too much work!”

I admit it’s easier to bury myself in work than it is to face whatever might be bothering me emotionally.

I know that working for long stretches may be counter-productive and it’s even more counter-productive when I’m in a productivity dip.

There’s the law of diminishing marginal returns to consider. Yet I find it difficult to stop when I’m on a roll or when I can get one more thing done.

Rest is important, however. I know I must rest in order to start fresh the next day so that I can be my best self.

Studies of sleep in mice and flies suggest that sleep may allow our bodies to repair cells, consolidate our memories, and reset synapses (the connection between neurons) to make room to learn new things.

What better reason to give ourselves the gift of rejuvenation?

I must learn to take heed of my Oxalis Triangularis.

If my love plant needs to rest, so must I.

My love plant reminds me to welcome the light, to start the day anew with a receiving mind and a giving heart, and to rest so that I can be my best self tomorrow. This beautiful reminder inspires me to take time for self-reflection and take action for my own well-being. To be kind to myself. And, I wish the same for you.

Are you aware of a rhythm to your productivity? Maybe you, too, have super productive weeks and less productive ones that cycle through the months. Are you living the daily grind? Moving from one thing to the next? What might be your daily reminder to rest and restore your energy? Maybe your special Zeitgeber is already sitting in your house waiting for you to take notice.


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