Feb 11, 2005

my plant, at home and doing ok

I have been waiting seven years for one of my plants to decide whether it's going to fight for it's life or finally die. It's been threatening to die for a very long time. And, it's disconcerting, I'm pretty good with plants. I've had this plant for eleven or twelve years. It's a large plant. I've given it vitamins, new soil, better sources of light. I make a point to breathe on it. I even talk on the phone right near it, so that it might further benefit from my breathing on it. Not to suggest that I don't talk directly to my plants. I do. I tell them how they're doing, like, Oh, look you're sprouting, that's great.. or sometimes, Oh, no what's happening to you..? As well as, I love you, please don't die.. That kind of thing.

And I've dusted it's leaves, as I do with my other plants. At one point, I moved this plant around from window to window three or four times a day, just to insure that it got the best light possible. I did this for years. I even dried it out a couple of times. Gave it a week of no attention at all followed by lots of attention. Finally, I arranged all of my other plants around the dying plant. I thought this community of thriving plants might somehow lend a sense of solidarity, or support to my dying plant that might strengthen its will to live. And no. Nothing. And, I should mention, the fact that everything started to go down hill right around the time I got a kitten is not lost on me.

The kitten is, for all practical purposes, innocent of any foul play. She never messes with the plant. Not in any obvious way. Still, I've always sensed some tension between the kitten and the plant. Most likely, the kitten has been sending the plant bad vibes all of these years. It's something she would do. She has many reasons to be bitter, and I can see how she would take it out on the plant instead of me. It's displaced aggression. Or it's passive aggressive. In either case, I know the way the kitten operates, and believe me, she can be jealous and quite petty. Still, the plant did seem to improve for about a year. And I moved a couple of times during all of this. And it always adjusted.

But, now, there's no denying it. The plant is sparse. And becoming sparser. And people have made comments about the plant. Their insinuation being that I've murdered it, or that there's some kind of Munchausen by Proxy deal going on between me and my plant. Which really upsets me, because they have no idea what lengths I've gone to to make this plant happy. So, finally, about a week ago, I was feeling heartless, and I took the plant out to the garbage. I was trying to get rid of things.

It all started when I threw out this broken TV that had been sitting in the middle of my desk/dollhouse/drawing table area for a few months. I left the TV in the middle of the room for so long that, I admit, I got used to it being there. But last week I hit my shin on it for the thousandth time, and it was as if I finally woke up or something. My whole sleep-walking-through-life, not caring that the TV is always in my way thing: I snapped right out of it. I became appropriately disgusted, and went into a mode where the TV and everything, EVERYTHING had to go. I said, This TV is ruining my life! And the TV (not as heavy as I remembered it, though it might have been a product of sheer adrenaline) went out into the garbage. But not before I attached a post-it note with something to the effect of: This TV is 100% broken! scribbled on it. I've noticed other people doing this, and it's good to go ahead and label most of the garbage these days, anyways (sorry, just garbage, refuse, dirt: no browsing please) otherwise in the morning you will be greeted by the horror of yesterday's garbage strewn all over the side yard (by the thoughtless, non tidy, non conscientious garbage enthusiasts).

So the TV went out. The way of garbage. Out of my life. At last. Among a few other things. And then I looked over at the plant. There it was. 90% dead. It must have known that it was next. I had to do this sort of rotely, though. I could feel myself taking it down the stairs and everything, but it was like it was someone else doing it. My mind wasn't ok with this. And so the plant was placed outside by the odd collection of items by the garbage, though, seriously, my memory of this incident is a little sketchy.

My plant looked so sad out there by the TV. I had to turn around and, no matter what, not look back. I got upstairs, and mopped the part of the floor where it once stood and tried not to think about it. But it kept nagging at me. Then, the next morning I went out, and on my way back, there it was. I felt as guilty as I would have had it had been a pet that I abandoned. It was around fifty degrees out during this period. So everytime I walked past I saw not my garbage, not a frozen plant, not a dead plant, but my plant, 10% alive, looking thirsty, pathetic, standing there quietly, not understanding it's fate, and seeming to say, It's scary out here.. why are you doing this to me..? Please bring me back inside.. I'll be good this time.. It was awful. This went on for a couple of days.

The garbage is taken away on Tuesdays, and it was now already Monday. I felt like such a lowlife. When I went to go get a cab to go to work that night, I was again confronted by my sad, abandoned plant. And it was starting to get colder out. And it was rumored that it might snow overnight. It was the eleventh hour. I walked three blocks, got a cab, and heard myself asking the driver if I could make two stops. He drove me back to my building, and waited while I carried my 10% alive plant back up to my apartment. I gave it some warm water with plant food and put it near the window. My cat came bounding into the room, stopped dead in her tracks, and looked at me incredulously.

I told the plant I was sorry, and I promised I would never put it out by the garbage again, that if it was going to die, it would die at home, and I vowed to do whatever it takes to make it the lush, wonderful happy plant that it once was. When I got back into the cab, the driver had the good sense not to ask me any questions. So now, a week later, I'm able to report that the plant is pretty much the same. I dare say more like 12% alive. We'll see. I still haven't let myself off the hook about any of this, though. That may take some time.

Next week: why the Japanese evergreen was moved to another window..


  1. Post is 100% hilarious!

  2. I just stumbled byb your blog and couldn't help but feel sorry for your plant. I know nothing about plants, but my mother is gifted that way and she said you your try a tea bag, some sugar water and classical music. She also swears that you should never use water fresh from the tap for plants, instead, fill up a jug and let it sit for a day.

  3. Thank you both, and those are great tips. I've never heard about tea bags. I'll try anything..

  4. Plants.

    What complete bastards. Masters of manipulation; they pull at your heartstrings with wilted brown leaves and after all the effort and love you give, do they thank you? Do they bloom, even just one blossom?? No, they just pee thier water all over the table, leaving white marks on it.

    I hate that!

    What is this plant anyways?? Any pictures?

    Well, I hope it learns to appreciate what a good life you're providing. Perhaps you should think of it's foray onto the curb as "tough love".

  5. Like chocolate I read this in small bites knowing it would have to last for several days.

    Sometimes plants have a bond to the person that gave them to you. Perhaps the you and the giver are experiencing a strained relationship.

  6. Lyvvie, Hi! Masters of manipulation, indeed. The plants, the cat, all of them.. The funny thing is that it's doing ok (14% alive) now.. maybe the cold air froze something that was harming the plant..

    Mr. Ho, I know what you're saying about the giver/recipient plant connection. In this case, I bought it at a Home Depot. I hate Home Depot, at least the one nearest to my house, as it's so big it makes me feel dizzy, weak, kind-a-like I need oxygen. It makes sense..

  7. Just got a Ficus tree for our balcony. Almost overnight I came to regard it as if it were the fruit of my loins. Very strange to be so proud of something that I had nothing to do with.

  8. I've always felt too self-conscious and just plain stupid to talk to the plants in my house. But, now that I know they benefit from simply overhearing conversations, I, too, will start talking on the phone next to them.
    I'll apologize to them as well, since in the past, I accused them of being nosey.

  9. Oh, jeez, Victoria, I love this post. I love th misplaced aggression, the Muchausen by Proxy, the incredulous cat!

    My only advice - coffee grounds. My eldest plant is a spider plant that is 10 years old. She has begotten at least seventy five thriving children who I have passed along to others. Spider plants are the chain letters of plants.

  10. Oh Victoria! This is fantastic... One of these days you need to publish your stories. I'll be first in line for an autographed copy.

  11. I eat my plants. Ate a geranium once. Tasty. But, I will not eat my Mums.

  12. Just in time for V-day, a story that finally depicts the true hardships associated with keeping love alive-- even if it's only 10-12% non-dead at any given time.

    Being in a love triangle is tough, yo.

  13. I have kicked a many living breathing things out of my house. What makes you so darling and special is that you let the old bird come back in. Maybe you should force kitty and plant to talk out their problems with each other. It seems to be running deep, the problem that is.

    Happy Valentines Day! You are so very funny.

  14. Try giving that plant a few drops of your own blood.

    It's probably a man-eater.

  15. Otis, me too. But the difference is really incredible..

    Aughra, Coffee grounds. God knows I've got coffee grounds. thanks, I'll give it a try..

    Kim, that made my day! Not one, but two smiles with winks to you! ;);)

    AB, Ok. But keep in mind that some of those plants are "poisonous" and could make you feel strange for a few hours..

    YGWIN, And, hey, 15% alive as of this morning, yo..

    Wink, I enrolled the kitten and the plant in a program at The Near North Yoga/Wellness/little soaps/beaded coin purses/Quit Smoking Center and Raw Foods Cafe. It introduces bullies to the basics about how to be a human being in a world with other human beings, and those who are being bullied techniques in non-escalating verbal self defense (you'd be surprised how many of the bullies/bullied were people in their thirties and forties..), as well as touches upon communication skills between angry kittens and misunderstood plant life. Starts on Tuesday. I'll let you know ..

    Smorg, when I got this plant it was actually a ficus that I had my heart set on, but they were all out of ficus trees that day.

    That was twelve years ago. I have yet to get myself a ficus tree..
    Anyway. Thursday. Bring cigarettes.

  16. Vik, yeah...cigarettes...put some coffee on. See you then.

  17. Victoria ...I'll bring you cigarettes if you'll come back and post. I need substance! It's been too long

  18. Vic... come back!

  19. Sorry about not posting for a while, guys.. Some family stuff is going on, and I'm a little under the weather. Will be back soon, I promise!

  20. That was an inspiring story.
    I was going to pass along the simple wisdom of "Sometimes plants just die."

    To quote Hud:
    "Happens to everyone; horses, dogs, men. Nobody gets outta life alive."

    I'll just say I hope I have you on my side, if it comes to a point where they are ready to pull the plug on me. :)

  21. Feel better soon Vic! I miss you

  22. I've officially been inspired. My poor plant is at about 50% life. I forgot to water it, and then over compensated for my forgetfulness by over watering it. Isn't that always the way? Anyways, I enjoyed your words.

  23. No green thumb here. At. All.