College Essay #1 – Something Meaningful

Prompt: Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

By: Chloe Hogue

It was a sunny weekend day near the end of a distinctly Pacific Northwest spring, so I was outside reacquainting myself with the feel of sunshine on my skin. I had decided to repot my peace lily, so I brought along the lily, a new pot, perlite, and some soil outside. Gently, I removed the lily, inspected it for pests, and detangled the root ball. I grabbed a bucket and created a soil mix specifically for this plant. After the repotting, I picked it up and climbed up to my room, careful not to spill any soil. I changed the music to a favorite deep cut of mine, Walter Wanderley’s “Rain Forest”. Suddenly, I was no longer in my room but in a flourishing jungle with blooming plants and vines welcoming me. On a high shelf above my desk, my pothos, in its thick, opulent glory, danced, its vines swinging to the music. 

My love for plants and nature is personal and tied to my love for my family and my home. Growing up in Washington, I remember childhood hikes through dense forests filled with fungi, bugs, and ferns. My father took pictures of interesting orange-yellow fungal growths on tree trunks. When my twin brother went stomping ahead of us on our nature walks, my mother lovingly reminded him that he was in nature and to respect it. Other times, when we visited extended family during the summer in Prosser, Washington, we drove past grapes, hops, apple trees, and asparagus. My father spent his summers “on the farm”. The fields of crops were expansive, and I pondered how each vegetable and fruit was grown. How much water would they use? When are they harvested?

He explained the need to grow hops vertically on wires and poles. 

He explained how wind could bruise the apples and how snowfall in the Cascades each year could affect their average size. 

He explained drip irrigation and how water from the Columbia River traveled to Prosser. 

We only ever stayed in Prosser for a weekend, but it always felt like the whole wonderful summer.

These experiences as a child are still so close to my heart. Each year for the past three years, I have grown a garden in a small wooden garden bed. We bought the planks for the frame of the bed, and my father offered to help build it. But, screwdriver in hand, I foolheartedly shook off his help and got to work. I decided to sit on the concrete patio and problem-solve. I looked for the correct fitting bits and used intuition to guide me. Working with my hands, a trait too often associated with masculinity, made me feel powerful. Eventually, I finished it, and I was proud of my work. The frame was stable with no warps in the wood. Then my father inspected it and gave it his stamp of approval. Over the course of the next week, we chose a spot to put it, lined it, and added soil. Soon strawberries, cilantro, tomatoes, and onions filled the bed. 

Now I am planning to expand my garden… if my parents let me. If I had my way, I would replace the grass in our yard with a great big pollinator garden with local plants and flowers that would bloom brilliantly in the spring and summer. I am curious about how different plants grow and how humans can use them. Some plants are grown just to be admired, while others may be used to heal or provide food. I want to maximize human-plant interactions and create a stronger healthy relationship between humans, plants, and our environment. I want to explore these curiosities that stem from my childhood love for my home, Washington State. In college, I would love to help manage a student garden that is useful and able to be enjoyed by fellow students. My father’s knowledge deserves the joy of being shared.