There are places I go when I start to feel the weight of recent world events. Depending on the day, it could be Bali, where tropical birds sing and monkeys swing from guava trees; Tulum, Mexico, where lush plant life thrives in the salty ocean air; or Olympic National Park in Washington, where the earthy smell of damp wood lingers after a rainfall. Inevitably, the triple-knock of a Slack notification snaps me back to reality, and instead of wandering through those verdant landscapes, I’m sitting in the living room of my 700-square-foot apartment in Golden, a calming space that’s filled floor to ceiling with foliage—my very own urban jungle. I feel safe here: There isn’t racism, social unrest, or a nefarious virus in my jungle.

Plants have always been an integral part of my living spaces, but the pandemic turned my fondness for houseplants into a full-blown addiction. When my office closed and my favorite extracurriculars—traveling, weight-lifting, and sharing a bottle (or two) of red wine with friends—evaporated, I found refuge in the aisles of Echter’s in Arvada and joy purchasing new greenery at Rosehouse Botanicals in Denver. The more chaotic and ominous the world outside my four walls seemed, the more my home became overrun by flora. I’d buy a Zanzibar Gem here, a fiddle-leaf fig there, until one day, a whopping 48 plants inhabited my small apartment.

In a matter of months, I had officially gone from what my fellow millennials would call a #plantmom to a #crazyplantlady. But I own this new title proudly. Each of my plant babies—from a collection of philodendrons to the 40-foot-long vining pothos that creeps across the living room walls—has comforted me during the times of uncertainty and pain that have arisen over the past year. And in the absence of friends to entertain or family to visit, caring for—and yes, even talking to—my plants helped fill a social and emotional void.

I’ve grown fond of our symbiotic relationship: I nurture my plants, and in return, they purify the air around me and boost my mood. With them, I unwind, escape, and wait for life to return to normal. Until that day comes, I’ll be lost—and at ease—somewhere in my jungle.