Betsy Robinson, author of funny literary stories about flawed people, is a perpetual seeker of truth.

From books to music to theater and fine art, from online TV to DVDs, this blog takes a look at current culture through a spiritual perspective ó with a touch of humor.

Materials under the "review" tag are a mix of free review copies (books, DVDs, etc.) in exchange for a review, to library copies, to materials and tickets I've paid for.


A Really Bad Hair Day (Feb. 13 blog)

The Art of Collapsing (Feb. 6 blog)

Life is only temporary says Evan Handler (Jan. 28 blog)

The New World of Finance (Jan. 28 blog)

All about growing up in a cult (April 16 blog)

Fierce Giving (Jan. 8 blog)

(Copyright © 2008-2014 Betsy Robinson. All rights reserved)

Notes from a Crusty Seeker

My Motherís Prayer Plant

March 31, 2010

Tags: compassionate wisdom, fun, healing

Last Friday was the twentieth anniversary of my motherís death. That means this prayer plant is twenty plus however-long-it-lived-with-my-mother years old. Not bad.

Until twenty years ago, my only plants were a stringy philodendron who had survived my tendency to forget to water, and many little jade plants rooted from the broken stems of a big one that an apartment sitter claimed ďjust fell apart one day.Ē

I had always wanted to have plants like my mother did, but so many had died on my watch that I never considered myself a green-thumb. In 1990, when my mother died, tending her plants became my mission. To my relief, all but one thrived. The one was this prayer plant, the coffee table centerpiece, who seemed determined to expire. I talked to it, coaxed and caressed it, pled with it to live, but one by one, the leaves turned from green to sickly yellow to brown, and by the time of my motherís memorial party in her living room, it was a mournful sight among the perky violets and vases of cut flowers.

Clearing out my motherís apartment was going to be a grueling job, but before I could approach it, I felt compelled to find homes for her plants. I gave some to friends and put glass shelves up in my three brownstone windows so I could house more plants. I took advantage of the small skylight in my bathroom by attaching a rope and pulley to its guard bars. And the first things I moved out of my motherís home and into my own were as many plants as I could cram in.

To my delight, even though the plant books said it could not be done with a northern exposure, the geraniums continued sending up great fat, fire-engine-red and hot-pink flowers; the African violets outgrew their pots; an unidentifiable plant with small, maple-shaped, black-green leaves tripled its size and announced it was a croton; the dead half of the fern that had been wall-side at my motherís turned green under the skylight in my bathroom; the ficus dropped not a leaf; but most miraculous, the prayer plant, who Iíd feared might go further into distress at the change in location, not only revived, but burst into bloom! And suddenly I began to understand.

Twice since Iíve had the plant, Iíve gone away for extended vacations, and both times, despite the conscientious care of two different friends, the prayer plant (and only the prayer plant) went into decline. The second time I went away, I thought to warn my plant-caring neighbor about its tendency lest she feel that it was her fault, but I decided not to say a word; I wanted to test this phenomenon, and I thought if I said something I might influence my friendís expectations, which in turn might affect the plant. And, as before, the plant began to die, but as soon as I returned, it sent up new shoots and practically smiled.

I remembered that for years this plant had gone through similar cycles of lushness to near-death. In fact, my mother used to marvel at its incredible will to survive. The cycles had no seasonal pattern. The light, water, and ventilation remained constant, and yet suddenly it would go from radiant health to near-expiration. And now I wonder if those cycles might have been in sync with my motherís own health declines and miraculous recoveries. Could this plant have been so connected to her energetically, and when it came to live with me, could it have similarly bonded with me? Could my motherís prayer plant simply be a plant that requires companionship ó the appreciation of a loving witness ó just as my mother had?

I do believe that plants have some kind of soul, and I also believe that having a green thumb may be nothing more than respecting, witnessing, and loving the life of that soul.

Twenty years after my motherís death, many plants in my indoor garden have died and been replaced by new ones. Iíve learned to accept it. But that plant Iím closest to ó the picture tell says it all: weíre doing fine.

Selected Works

Big Moose Prize-winning novel
a funny, sometimes sad, story of negotiating life without a clue

New on Kindle--a funny book for foodies who are committed to self-change through self-awareness
an epistolary memoir ... sort of
A funny and moving little book for anyone who's had a mother or struggled with being human.
anthology of stories and plays
includes Darleen Dances and stories below

1-act play

short story
the problem with worrying about the future

true story
Why I don't believe in death.

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