There was a chill in the air as I walked down the hallway, my head hung low in guilt and shame. I slowly turned the deadbolt. The door creaked open and a rush of cold air washed over me as I stepped barefoot onto the brick. I wasn’t ready for this. Not again. Not so soon.
Why? I asked myself. Oh, why does this keep happening? Surely there was something more I could do, more I could say. But no. It was evident there was nothing more I could have done to save the lifeless body I held in my hands.
Death had come upon us once again. I bent down and laid it carefully on the step, then turned and stepped back into the house. I didn’t look back. I couldn’t bear it.
I had killed another houseplant.
There are green thumbs — presumably so-called because of the stains left on the fingers of someone who is good with plants. Then there are my thumbs — wrinkled and pale like the poor, crusty leaves of my latest plant victim. I had such hopes for this one, sitting proudly on the buffet in the dining room, perched the perfect distance from the window where it basked gently in what I thought to be the ideal amount of morning sun. Not near a heat vent or at risk of being set on fire by the coffee pot.
I watered it. Not too much. Not too little, using the feel of the soil as a guide like I’d been told to do so many times before. If it’s damp, leave it alone. If it’s dry, water it.
Sigh. I did that.
“Did you talk to it?” a friend asked. Did I talk to it? No, I didn’t talk to it.
“That’s why it died, then,” she said. “You didn’t talk to it.”
I’ve never really subscribed to the notion that talking to your plants keeps them alive, so I don’t talk to them. I talk to other people. I talk to myself. I talk to my dogs. Sometimes who I’m talking to gets confusing.
“How was your day?” I ask.
“It was good, but I shouldn’t have worked out so hard. And then there’s this...” my husband begins. Silence. I feel him staring at me. What?
“Sorry ... did you say something?” I ask him. “I was talking to the dog.” For the record, the dog didn’t answer me. My husband, on the other hand, did give me a very disturbing look.
As it turns out, there are some who believe that talking to plants does help them grow, but not for the reasons you may think. According to these plant-minded individuals, plants need carbon dioxide to grow and when you talk to a plant, you breathe on it, giving it an extra infusion of CO2. However, they explain, for this to make any real difference, you would have to spend many hours a day enjoying up close and personal conversation with them. There are even others who believe plants have emotions just like humans, and the more attention you pay to them the healthier they will be.
Who has that kind of time?
I should pray for my poor plants — the ones that are still alive, that is. I fear their days are numbered. When they are dry, I water them. When they are damp, I leave them alone. I don’t chat with them or play cards with them ask them how their day was. Maybe I should.
“How was your day?” I would ask.
“It was good, but I shouldn’t have worked out so hard ...” my husband would say.
Now I don’t think I could bring myself to admit I was talking to a plant. The dog, yes. But a plant? I don’t think so.
Sorry if I hurt your feelings, Fern. I hope we can still be friends ... if you live long enough. Sigh.
Contact columnist Mandy Flynn at firstname.lastname@example.org.