The leaves on my houseplant were yellow and limp, except for the ones that were brown and dead. When I leaned over to give the poor thing a final sip of water, my arm started tingling. The closer I got to the leaves, the stronger the tingling. Was the dying philodendron taking revenge, shooting a death ray at my innocent arm?

This required a lunch confab with Sami, the plant whisperer.

She said, “You were feeling the plant’s energy. The plant might communicate through the energy, to tell you how to revive it.”

Here was my chance to be one with nature, without the inconvenience of going outside.

Sami said, “Ask the plant yes/no questions. Something that’s obviously a no. Like, are you on the patio? Feel the tingling. Then ask an obvious yes. Like, are you in the bedroom? The yes energy will feel different than the no. After you can tell the difference, you move on to questions about what it needs to get healthy. You’ll be great at this. I knew you were a closet nature-lover.”

I was feeling oneness already.

“Most important,” Sami said, “you have to ask permission to be inside the plant’s energy.”

After lunch, I ran straight to the bedroom, where the philodendron was wheezing out a death rattle. I leaned over, giving it an air hug. “Are you on the patio?”

Instead of tingling my arms this time, a downdraft of energy ruffled the hairs on the back of my neck. The plant was talking to me. Energy on the back of my neck meant no.

“Are you in the bedroom?”

Once again, the back of my neck was alive with vibrations.

But, was it more intense? Less intense? I couldn’t tell. I tried another yes. “Are you sick?”

The vibrations were definitely more intense. Then again, maybe not. I closed my eyes and tilted my head back in concentration. Aha! Now, the energy was brushing my face. Eureka. Energy on my face meant yes.

I opened my eyes. Damn. The ceiling fan was on.

When I need really smart answers, I rely on magic—I douse with a pendulum. When it takes me an hour to decide which sweater to wear, I ask the pendulum. The days I look really put together, that means the pendulum picked my outfit.

I held the pendulum (bargain model: car keys dangling from a leather shoelace) in front of me. “Show me how the plant will say yes.” The keys swung side to side. “Show me how the plant will say no.” The keys swung in a circle. I repeated the exercise. Same result.

Image by Sanam Maharjan from Pixabay

“Is the plant on the patio?”

The pendulum keys swung in a circle, for no. Excellent.

“Is the plant in the bedroom?”

Side to side, yes. Fabulous. Oneness, here we come. Today I save the plant. Tomorrow I save the planet.

Time for the big questions: Do you need more water? More sunlight? A different owner? Then I remembered Sami’s final instruction. Get permission.

“Is it okay to be in the plant’s energy?”

The keys swung in a circle.

No? What do you mean, no?

“Does the plant want to talk to me?”

The keys spun faster than the ceiling fan.

Obviously, the pendulum was hard of hearing.

I shouted. “Does the plant want to talk to me?”

The rotation of the keys sped up.

“Stop kidding around. Does this plant want to talk to me?”

The keys rotated faster, the circle wider and wider. A tornado. My dreadlocks whipped around my head.

That’s it. The budding romance between the leafy world and me is off. I wanted to be one with Nature, but Nature didn’t want to be one with me.

Image by Barroa_Artworks from Pixabay

Dawn Downey

Dawn Downey writes to incite compassion. Whether she’s challenged by Mother Nature or the nature of her wild mind, she hopes readers will recognize themselves in her stories—and then lovingly accept their own wild minds. Downey is the author of Blindsided: Essays from the Only Black Woman in the Room; Searching for My Heart: Essays about Love; From Dawn to Daylight: Essays; and Stumbling Toward the Buddha: Stories about Tripping over My Principles on the Road to Transformation. Learn more at

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Christine

    This was intriguing and fun to read. I have always been a “plant killer”, although I had many grandparents who were amazing Gardners. I remember my grandma telling me that her plants do best when she talks to them like they’re her children. She suggested giving them lots of compliments. It seemed very silly, but after trial and many errors I found it to be true! And now I’m proud to have a growing number of healthy house plants, and I tell my children that their plants are “sad” when they’re wilting or “happy” when they’re reaching out to you. That they should talk to them like they’re their babies (which usually makes them giggle). But I find that they do it, and they care about their plants more. And now when they ask for pets I suggest a plant because they are living things that rely on us to stay alive when they’re inside. So we have a big/important job to do!

    1. Sami Aaron

      Love this, Christine! Even if it seems silly, it still just feels like a positive and uplifting thing to do. Thanks for sharing your story here.

    2. Dawn Downey

      Christine, thanks for reading me. I admire what you’re teaching your children about raising plants. And the worm bin, so neat how that took off. Your children are going to be such conscientious stewards of the planet. It’s fascinating to me how plants can affect you, after you start paying really close attention. I’ve always had houseplants, but it’s been a one-way conversation. The plants are like furniture, I might talk to them, but I don’t think I’ve ever listened. I’m having a more personal relationship with the bedroom philodendron. If feels like there’s a person in my bedroom with the flu, and I’m taking care of them. Whenever I’m in the bedroom, I’m aware of it’s presence, in the same way you know there’s somebody standing behind you. Yesterday, I apologized to it for coming into the room in a bad mood. The plant made me more self-aware. Geez, what’s good for the plants and worms is good for everybody! Happy composting.

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