Pedagogy of the Plants

Archive for the ‘South America’ Category

Bolivian Bromeliad

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Deuterocohnia brevifolia

Written by Cameron Brooks

June 16, 2018 at 4:18 pm

Whittling Palo Santo

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Mexican flame vines buttress Robert and Madeline’s verdant enclave from Orlando’s relentless congestion. After chocolate and coffee, we toured their small, one-room workshop where essential oils are blended, poured, packaged, and shipped.  One of their latest offerings is palo santo, from South America.  The “holy wood” was used by the Incas to purify and cleanse spaces of negative energy/spirits.  Robert offered a bag of sticks to take home.

The winter break’s first read was Amy Greene’s Bloodroot, an apropos tale for a cabin Christmas in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Set in rural Tennessee, a doting grandfather whittles animals for his granddaughter. Inspired by his crafty gifts, and equipped with enough palo santo wood to cleanse an old apartment complex, I set out to try my hand at folk art.

Lloyd showed me how to use a range of tools for deconstructing, repairing, and building ramps and skateboards.  Despite his disdain for the sport’s inherent destruction, throughout the years my grandfather passed along well-worn various and sundry tools, including a small pocket knife.

The cube above was first, then the pyramid.  Pleased with fragrant basics, organic figures followed.  The boy in baggy jeans was originally intended to be a sphere, but symmetry proved illusive.  So the kid slowly revealed himself as a raver from ’97, and the pyramid became a hat.

Written by Cameron Brooks

January 7, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Beaten Paths

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Chan Chan is an archeological site near Trujillo, Peru that predates the Incas. See more beaten paths, from Santa Barbara to Namibia…

Red Bougainvillea, Bougainvillea glabra

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St Marys, Georgia

Elqui Valley, Chile

This bougainvillea adorned balcony in Santiago’s Barrio Bellavista rests around the corner from “La Chascona,” Pablo Neruda’s home named for his lover and third wife, Matilde Urrutia.  The name means “the uncombed.”

Street art surrounds the curious homes in one of Santiago’s most bohemian enclaves.


In the center of Santiago, some college kids spent an afternoon of their winter break giving away free hugs, or “abrazos gratis.”  In stark contrast to the youthful positivity, the man standing next to his bike was prosthelytizing about brimstone and hellfire, and the second coming of Jesus.

At times it was safer to pull out a handheld recorder, than a bulky camera that could easily get snatched.  Listen to a stroll through the heart of Santiago:


Later, we came across a blind couple and their young daughter singing for change.  The girl sat on the ground between her mother’s legs.  Listen below:

California Poppy, Eschscholzia californica

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Written by Cameron Brooks

July 26, 2010 at 10:13 pm

Chilean Cactus, Eulychnia acida

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Disputes between locals and mining companies are ubiquitous throughout Chile.  I took these photos in Cochiguaz fifteen days before the Copiapó mining accident.

Written by Cameron Brooks

July 23, 2010 at 2:48 am

Eucalyptus Tree, Eucalyptus globulus

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These photos were taken on the banks of the Rio Magico (Magic River), in Valle del Elqui, Peru.  According to Robert Kirshner, a professor of science at Harvard University, “Chile has as good a claim as any place to be the center of the astronomical universe.”  The Elqui Valley is the center of the earth’s gravitational force, and is said to have healing powers.  I have never seen the night sky so clear.