I've been watering a dead plant and I can't seem to throw it away. It's not because of apathy or laziness or an unwillingness to admit defeat, it's something else entirely. And while I consider myself a nurturing person, I'm not sure my plants would agree. Only the fighters survive my benign neglect and know to reward my occasional watering by perking up instantly. Anticipating flowers helps a lot. When I see a bud appear, I snap into watering mode, tending to the slender shoot like it's a baby bird incubating inside its shell. Orchids know how to deliver the goods, producing brilliant flowers six at a time, and Anthurium, with its waxy red heart-shaped leaves, makes me smile.
My miniature tea rose is another story. Most of the time, it seems moribund with barely a spot of green and not even a prayer of flowering. I water it anyway and then suddenly, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, a tiny rose will appear, turning its crimson face toward the afternoon sun.
I bought the snake plant because it was advertised as no green thumb required. This turned out to be true. It keeps on going--if by going you mean not dying. But it's just kind of there, growing a little bit taller but otherwise unremarkable. Although I don't expect my plants to be trained circus animals I do need something from them to keep my attention. In short, if you don't do anything interesting there's a good chance I'll forget about you. Lucky for the snake plant his neighbors draw me in with their tricks.
And then there's the dead plant, a small bromeliad in a clay pot. It was the only plant I tried very hard to keep alive for the past five years. It was a gift and, while I don't know who brought it over, I do know when and I do know why. I had hosted many parties and gatherings over the years, but none like this one, so last-minute, with many strangers on the guest list. It was an impromptu memorial service for my friend Leslie who had died suddenly three days before. My funny, irreverent, smart-mouthed, cat-loving friend with her Boston accent and wonderful laugh, the one who ended every phone call with love you, my friend, was gone. All I could do was invite people over, make some food, and trade photos and stories of the woman we all missed so much.
It was a beautiful sun-lit day filled with flowers and laughter and love. Someone brought me a plant, a bromeliad. Leslie would have loved it.