30 March

The Sad Succulent Rescue. Are Plants Important?

by Jon Katz

Maria and I stopped at Petco the other night to get some food and treats for the dogs and cats, she  came up to me holding a pathetic little plant in her hand, the root ball was exposed and it looked dead to me. ‘It’s a sad succulent,” she said. “We need to rescue it.”

There were five other sad succulents also, but Maria is a bit tight as well as loving, She only wanted the one, but I had a feeling we might be back. Plant rescue is a pretty new idea to me, I  tend not to notice plants or tell one from another.

I took a look at the other five, they were also in rugged shape. They did need rescuing, and I saw this was important to Maria.

This was a first for me, but I no longer laugh  at Maria’s love of nature and her reverence for all living things ( except flies.) She is ahead of many people on that score, including me, and she has changed the way I see the world.

I thought it was a great idea to rescue the sad succulent, I was irked that the manager wanted full price – $6 – for a dying plant, but perhaps it was the cost of the terra-cotta bowl. I know how busy he is, but somebody needs to water them.

I am used to this sort of thing by now, Maria saves spiders, lady bugs, worms and crickets. The only thing I dare to swat any more is a fly buzzing over us at night.

This is  the new normal for me, and I get it.

(Maria moves the sad succulents from the temporary carton home into some pots, where they can be together, she said, and have some room to breathe and plenty of sun)

I made some wisecracks to the manager about paying full price for a dying plant to the manager, a very nice young man I have come to know well and like.  He just laughed.

This morning, when we woke up, Maria said she was thinking of the other sad succulents. The strange thing was that I was also.

I said let’s go back to the Petco this morning and buy the other five. Really?, she said, a bit surprised.

Absolutely, I said, we can’t leave them there. And this time I said, I’ll do some negotiating about the price. We stopped for breakfast along the way at Jean’s Diner, a new discovery for us, then on to Bennington, to get to Petco four minutes after it opened.

Maria was afraid the succulents might have been thrown away, they were all ratty and limp.

They were all there, right where she had last see them. We liberated them from the store, and putting my old negotiating hat on, ( I love negotiating) I said to the the very nice manager in a firm but strong voice: “look, most of these plants are dying.”

I held up the pathetic plants to show him.

“How much will you pay us to take them?”

He was startled and not expecting this and  looked at me incredulously, and mumbled something about the pots being worth $3.  I imagine he had to do some  explaining to some computer if he cut the price.

He clacked on his keyboard for a bit.

Okay, deal, I said, “we’ll buy them all for three dollars.”  This was half price, a perfect negotiation, a compromise, the kind our politicians no longer seem to know how to do. Fair enough. The money really wasn’t the issue, taking responsibility was.

Maria seemed shocked that we were taking all the plants home. And happy.

I applied some emergency watering out in the car, the pots were very dry. We got them home and Maria happily took charge when we got home. she spent an hour planting and re-planting and re-arranging the sad succulents in various terra cotta pots.

I’ve changed. I’m not a plant fanatic, they don’t draw me the way they do Maria.  I don’t pay much attention to them, that is pretty much her terrain. Maybe one day.

But I do recognize that they are part of life, they are important,  I need to learn to care about living things beyond myself or the people and animals that I love. I hope we all can learn to do that.

This is the hope for the future, for my daughter and granddaughter, for the children of the world who depend on us to give them a safe and healthy place to live.

Money can’t be the only thing we care about, or we will descend into hatred and cruelty and greed. The sad succulents are important to me. I am grateful to have helped save six of them and  lucky to be living with a person who cares and who is teaching me how to care.


  1. If you enjoyed Peter Wohlleben’s The HIdden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate (and if I recall correctly, you did), you might want to read Daniel Chamovitz’s What A Plant Knows. Chapters discuss in sequence What a Plant Sees/Smells/Feels/Hears, How a Plant Knows Where It Is, What a Plant Remembers, and an Epilogue: The Aware Plant (which starts by observing “”Intelligence’ is a loaded term”). Maria knows all this without needing to read a book about it; some of us need to be educated!

      1. This is my revenge for you “making” me read the Frederick Douglass biography. . . No good deed goes unpunished.

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