blog plants and their roots

Written by Andrew Tobar

Published 11 - November 2021

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* Photo by Andrew Tobar 2021

"This is my plant. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My plant is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. Similar to. the Rifleman's Creed I can't say I disagree. I find myself deep in the farmlands of Homestead. Anyone who knows this area would know of all the beautiful nurseries, greenhouses, and farms there are. I had been driving all day location scouting, taking pictures, and probably ticking off some people along the way. 


Joaquin and I always joke about how we had to overcome the social anxiety of public filming. I've noticed I behave differently, unlike myself in these situations regarding a project. It seems I drop all my anxieties and become more outgoing. I become more talkative, more willing to approach a stranger and strike up a conversation. Willing to explore my comfort zone. It gives me happiness, what can I say.













I find myself walking into the entrance of a large quaint garden nursery. It had a handwritten welcome banner and a small trailer, and two steps, that hung a "Cashier" sign above head. It was a windy day, and I also noted I happened to be the only customer there. With my headphones on I began going up and down the rows of planted flowers. Around me nothing but open land. It was a true spectacle. This feeling of solute is indescribable. Something when living in the city, I, unfortunately, don't get enough of. Instinctually I pull out my camera and begin taking photographs, making my way around the 3-acre farm.


Standing now in one of the hundreds of rows of orange trees I hear a very calm and polite voice coming from behind me. I turn around to notice one of the Gardners speaking to me. She wears a men's collard shirt with the company logo, and a blue hat with a homemade face mask."¿Hola, puedo ayudarte con algo?". She spoke only spoke Spanish, but to my advantage, I was raised speaking Spanish. I would spend my summers in Colombia on my father's family's farm in the mountains of Llano Grande. 


Her name was Sandra Ponse. She was 72. I learned throughout this talk that she was the grandmother and of the family that owned this place. She and her 4 daughters, all with their respective children, worked to keep it up. Because of covid-19, she had to downsize on staff. She first asked me if I was looking for something specific. I responded politely back saying "that's all right, I'm just looking around for now, but thank you", followed by a big smile, under my mask of course. 












At that moment, something special happened. A baby cat brushed past my leg. Coming directly in-between us Sandra bends down and pets the kitten now rolled on its back, exposing its belly. Im told over a dozen cats live here on the land. We were surrounded by a beautiful array of cats, all living harmoniously.  

Was I in heaven? 


Ms. Ponse gave me one of those warm, welcoming feelings you only get from your sweet hispanic grandmother. In a feeble attempt to make relatable conversation with her, I began asking when she started her garden, and why she chose the path to work with flowers. This quickly evolved into getting a brief life story. I find it compelling how easy a conversation can be when you're genuinely filled with interest. She told me stories of old Cuba, her early teens, and struggling to live under Castro. By this point, Sandra and I are fully engaged in dialogue walking up and down the furrows. She told me about her husband. He was no longer alive but spoke very highly of him. Accrediting the success of the business to him and their partnership, praising their union. I leaned down to pick up a plant that had been knocked over. The past few days have been windy, and we've been having some on and off storms. 


I tried making her laugh. I said something along the lines of "I'm sorry I don't mean to take up all your time. The truth is I came here and didn't know what I wanted". I proclaimed that "I just assumed it would call to me". She gave a chuckle, and I felt a sigh of relief. She then walk me over to a more secluded section. Along the way, I asked again, why farming? She followed by saying "acaba de suceder", "it just happened". 

It seems the plants have chosen her. She follows by openly speaking about spirituality and her relationships and connection with God and nature. I noticed while talking about this subject she would graze her fingers gently across the peddles of the passing by flowers. I could visibly see her transcend. Searching inside herself, recalling her. Surfacing what might've been dormant for years. 


We stop talking for a moment and took note of the Guiana Chestnut Tree. 

She says that I should get this one. That this tree was special. She spoke of good luck and fortune. After the past few years, I could use some of that, and without hesitation, I kneeled down scooping up the small tree. "¿Dónde lo pago?", I asked. She took her gloves off and lead the way as I followed close behind. I also asked for her telephone number in hopes that I could come back and speak further with her and possibly write a piece on her. She willfully agreed but timorously tells me she didn't know her phone number, and that her daughter inside would give it to me.


Upon entering the brick and mortar, I felt the homie sensation, only old nostalgia can deliver. It was decorated with family photos and had classic wood wall panel walls. As I made my way to the counter I meet two other women. I noted one of the two lady's had a baby on her breast and was feeding. I quickly diverted my attention away, focusing now on the other. In a welcoming voice, she says "how can I help you"? Before opening my mouth, Sandra from behind me says "dale mi número de teléfono", "give him my telephone number". I quickly chimed in adding that I wanted to write a story on this wonderful garden's history. In all honestly, I was secretly worried they would think I was some looney. She then tore a loose piece of paper and wrote down the 10 digit number. She made sure to also staple the store's business card. While she prepared this, I said. "you're her daughter, right?" she said "yes and this is my other sister and my other 2 are out there working".


I made my purchase and thanked them all before making my way out of the shop. Sandra, who was already outside called me over to her. I can see she is looking at something but can't what. Once getting near, she pointed at a mother cat and her newborns all feeding on their mother's teet. The kittens were hidden safe in the shade under a large elephant ear palm. 


Something about this entire adventure felt spiritual. Something felt off, in the best way possible... I needed this more than I could've ever known, and after recent tribulations, I've found myself faced with more solitude than I give myself credit for. With this time I feel I've been given a special opportunity for self-reflection. I've chosen to step back from all the conventions I've subscribed to. Empty all the bins I've filled, in an effort to analyze my fears, anger, and depressions. My goal is the find the source or the root from where this lies. 


I've noticed a similarity in the verbiages between plants and humans. seed, roots, blossom, the similarities continue. My point is we must take care of our plants much like we take care of our minds. The seeds we plant only grow in healthy rich soil. Much like the dreams, we think of only, and how they only come true with having the right state of mind. We must nurture our crops, for we all want a good harvest. In the conscious and unconscious we are subscribed to truths, lies. We listen to what we think, and what others have to say, and consequently, we live a life based on that. I've been faced with many questions. One that's prevalent at the moment is "why do I like what I like". This question has been prevalent in the last year of my life. This sort of "shock-to-the-system" with the pandemic and just being out of society for a while, I think we're all faced with questions otherwise might never have been asked of us. in my personal opinion, this has opened a portal never to be bound again.




















With the status quo being you must attain a certain aesthetic level to be accepted. And where how you're being perceived reins higher than how you are it's easy to lower your desire for self-seeking answers and blend with the times. I believe we lose something in ourselves when we agree to this. It's this piece of humanity that I feel is being stripped from us quicker than ever. Something in mine. field research that anyone in their mid-to-late 20's would say is not in the youth of today. This is sort of an unspoken rule in the social media era where you must look cool, staus is key, even if fake. To be fair, I evolve constantly on this subject, as anyone whos trying to learn should. To quote the great Socrates “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing". 


I'm unloading the tree from my car now. I have to get into the elevator. I placed it next to me and we rode up 20 floors. The doors open at 13 and a woman and her dog enter. She takes note of my tree and puts her floor number in. Blasting my headphone I sent the body language of "I don't want to talk". Just as I'm about to get off she comments "what a beautiful plant, I love money trees". I smiled and made my way off the lift. Entering my apartment I introduce my cats to my new friend. I say she will be living with us now boys and we will take care of her. That means no leaf chewing Gucci! For the next 6-9 months we lived all as a family. I. watered regularly, I trimmed any debris, and afternoons where the sun would shine in my apartment giving us life.  


Recently I went through a scary moment with my plant. I started noticing the leaves were browning and falling off. First, it started it’s just one or two, eventually leading to every day seeing more and more dead leaves on the ground. This upset me very much and based on recent circumstances I believed this was some sort of symbolism. Much like my internal plights, this needed to be fixed at its root.


One morning I decided to put an end to this horror. I began by doing a thorough inspection of every square inch of my tree. Inspecting every leaf, stem, twig, and working my way into the soil. There I made an interesting discovery. My particular tree has four thick braided trucks. A healthy trunk is solid. It's connected to the earth’s surface where it sucks up the nutrients needed, feeding it to the entire organism. I discerned that one of the three supporting roots was heavily decayed. It was dry and hollow. Upon touching it, it crumbled like a cracker. I had found the culprit. A self-destructive root with plans to slowly kill. Much like a corrupting or negative thought, it works its way deep into our core, destroying us from the inside out. Much like a virus, it gets stronger while the host gets weaker. Being far from the botanist I wish I was, I went to google to search for answers. After about 10 seconds I lock my phone and took it upon myself and made the leap of faith to fix it myself. I began by meticulously and carefully working my way to unravel its thick braid. If plants could make sounds she would have been gasping for air. After a mini operation, I watered and re-potted the tree giving her fresh soil. I feel mentally I needed to do the same. 













My point in all this is rather simple. We must search deep inside ourselves and ask why am I this way. We must find the root of our problems and begin the journey of exploration, searching where our thoughts derive from and what is all that is putting us down. A journey into self-discovery with efforts to connect with our truest most righteous selves.


In the case of the rotting root, it's a happy ending… 


After carefully and methodically removing the source of harm, ie. the rotting carcass, we made a full recovery. Within days the brown leaves were turning bright green. Even an entirely new flower has grown straight from the soil. The leaves have doubled and are more bloomed than ever. Every day I wake up and go into my living room, I am reminded of its true grace, the will to find the source and heal it. We all have times when we’re down and feel we are rotting away, but we must water our minds with the same nutrients that waters are ever so beautiful ecosystem. 

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* Photo by Andrew Tobar 2021

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* Photo by Andrew Tobar 2021

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* Photo by Andrew Tobar 2021

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* Photo by Andrew Tobar 2021


* Photo by Andrew Tobar 2021

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* Photo by Andrew Tobar 2021