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Like an ivy-covered wall, Marina Gomberg shares why plants are really growing on her

Turns out, motherhood doesn’t only apply to caring for human babies.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Marina Gomberg.

I found myself, for maybe the second (third?) time that day, crouched alongside one of our two new raised garden beds. They’re what we built in our yard this spring to avoid repeating the heartache of last year’s Very 2020 Community Garden Produce Heist.

I had just mentioned to the tomatoes how impressed I was with their punctuality and growth and was going in for a gentle high-five when I realized we weren’t alone. The plentiful plumage had obstructed my view of the oncoming dog walker, who, with their eyebrows up and surprised smile, was clearly onto me.

“Servant leadership, amiright?” I said as if it wouldn’t make things weirder.

The person probably had headphones in and some sick beats blaring because they didn’t respond and seemed to pick up the pace.

As I finished my round of pep talks and serenades, my mind drifted. I wondered how I became the person who talks to foliage, dressed in a muumuu at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday.

I’d like to blame/credit pandemic life, but the truth is, that’s only partly responsible.

(Marina Gomberg | The Salt Lake Tribune) Tomato plants are shown growing happily in raised garden beds, perhaps aided by serenades and pep talks from a plant mom.

Sure, I’m draped in the mullet of work-from-home attire, a black and white kaftan that can seem — when seen just from the shoulders up — like it was inspired by Moira Rose, when it’s actually very Stevie Nicks from the bust down.

And without a year-long quarantine, when else would I have the time or desire to grow mango and avocado trees from seed (this is really happening and it’s awesome)?

But it occurs to me that my love of plants actually preceded Miss ‘Rona and blossomed on a parallel timeline to becoming a parent. Perhaps the urges to nurture aren’t species-dependent for me.

My wife, Elenor, and I started our first (mostly unsuccessful) garden at our old house in Rose Park right around the same time we shifted from thinking that having children was for other people (why would you bring someone into your life who can’t manage to wipe their own bum?) to being overtaken by the smells of babies in ways that made our uteruses twitch (give me the baby).

Thanks to hormones and a wildly adorable baby niece, the seeds of our desire to nurture and grow things were germinating. And like bamboo, they were shooting up all over the place.

Only chives survived that first year, but we’ve learned a bit more about fertility since then, and now we have over 40 inside botany babies (that cute niece counted them the other day) and our outdoor garden runneth over.

So now, I’m *that* plant mom, and I’m not even mad about it. Because Flora, it turns out, is a really lovely teacher. From patience to resilience to the importance of hydration and access to nutrition, these plants are showing us the way.

They give us food. They provide us comfort. They show us what it looks like to unabashedly bloom.

They seek the light. They teach us how to root down in order to rise up. And they transform our breath back into life.

If that doesn’t beg a couple of airy gratitude ditties, I don’t know what does.

So leaf me alone; I’m hanging out with my plants.

Marina Gomberg is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at mgomberg@sltrib.com.

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