R.I.P. Plantie, Hello Artist Dreams

Susana Rinderle
7 min readNov 2, 2021


Most people don’t know I was (am?) a classically trained pianist. The fact that most people don’t know this tells you something. Fascinated by my church’s organist, Mrs. Huss, and the strange marks on paper she translated into intricate music, I started piano lessons at age 5. By second grade I was writing songs and music — in fact, I won a composition competition for my piece “Steeds of September” when I was 8. If I had been born in a later decade — or to more emotionally healthy, resourceful parents — I might have ended up as a musician.

Or a quadruple-threat Artist. Inspired by enslaved poet Phillis Wheatley, by fifth grade I was writing poems that made my teachers question whether I was the author. My first poem to be published was at age 17, in a textbook about gifted children. I started dance training as a teenager and spent hours in my back yard choreographing, and teaching myself basic tumbling — in fact, I later turned down an invitation to join a small local dance company, choosing instead to attend UCLA. There, at the dorms, my happiest moments weren’t at raucous parties or study groups, but alone in the basement late at night, playing and singing my songs. I studied choral music and acting. I wanted to be Paula Abdul when I grew up, or Linda Igarashi — an older student at my high school and fellow cheerleader who ended up on Broadway.

To be fair to my parents and the other oblivious adults around me growing up, I also brought my own barriers to my artistry. Anxious DNA. Mental illness (triggered by attachment trauma — OK, that’s more parent blaming 😉 ). Perfectionism. I now understand all of those to be trauma responses and intergenerational trauma responses, but the truth is that my general tautness would have gotten in the way of the trusting flow needed to be truly great as a Creative. I likely would have self-medicated with alcohol, drugs and men (even more than I already did) to deal with the pressure, had I started to garner more attention and success.

Also, like many gifted kids, I developed an allergy to certain kinds of hard work. If it wasn’t fun or easy enough, or didn’t give results quickly enough, I peaced out. The last dance audition I ever went on was a disaster not only for my dismal performance, but my uncharacteristic “fuck it” attitude. I was relieved when I was cut, and those feelings still haunt me.

It’s been a long road backwards to make sense of my life and the available paths forward at age 51. In my forties, I once asked myself the startling question: “Who would you be if you had not been wounded?” The answer: An Artist. It was partly to explore and express this side of me that I moved back to my native Los Angeles in 2016. But then I lost business and had no money, so I joined a corporate consulting firm and was constantly travelling or recovering from travelling, and then COVID happened.

Now I have money, I have time, and “things” are opening up again. For now. But what to do with this power? This freedom?

This time of year is a time for such reflection and going deep. Today is Día de los Muertos, Day of the Dead. I’ve been celebrating and honoring this tradition by building altars and doing ceremony for nearly 30 years, long before other gringos discovered it and turned it into cupcakes and decals. And this year, one of the Beings to grace my altar will be Plantie.

I never named Plantie until now, which is odd. It’s odd because I’ve named several of my other plants — Clarence is my shy succulent, and RuPaul is a FIERCE aloe plant — and Plantie is my oldest plantie. He was gifted to me in 1981.

Yes, 1981. At 40, he may be the oldest pothos in history. Even when I left the country twice, he lived at my parents’ house and continued to thrive under my mother’s capable green hands. He’s had several major haircuts/amputations over the years. He’s lived in three dorm rooms, nine apartments and one house in four different cities in two states.

Since returning to L.A., Plantie has lived in my bathroom and thrived until maybe a year ago. His traditional habit of taking over whatever space he occupies slowed considerably. When I pruned his puny limbs, this time they stopped growing back. He started getting yellow leaves here and there. I continued to wipe his leaves, remove the yellowed ones, and keep a watchful eye. He seemed to be a little more wilty than normal, so I watered.

But Plantie’s leaves kept yellowing and dropping until only two were left. It felt like we’d entered a danger zone. I didn’t know what to do, so I googled. Nothing online was definitive. Maybe he needed more light — I’d moved him down a shelf to make room for another plant that was getting tall. Maybe he needed some fresh food — I repotted him. I put him in the window in the kitchen (because more light!) and watered some more. Maybe he was getting too much light now — as I put him away from the window. Maybe he was in shock from too much change — I put him back in the bathroom on the top shelf.

But Plantie was not happy. His leaves went from green to spotted with yellow, to more yellow, then yellow with brown, then yellow and brown and completely flaccid.

There’s nothing to be done now. I think Plantie is gone. A plant can’t survive without leaves. Maybe it’s my fault — maybe I shouldn’t have moved him to the lower shelf. Maybe I overdid it. Maybe the fresh food and move and direct sunlight and water were too much. Maybe he has root rot and I didn’t catch it in time.

But maybe it’s just time. Apparently pothos are pretty damn hardy, but their max life expectancy is 10 years. At 40, Plantie is a kickass mutant pothos!

But it still hurts — partly because of Plantie’s origin story. He was given to me — in a very 1970s psychedelic mushroom-adorned pot — by my elementary school for having been the accompanist for the school’s Christmas recital. I’d figured out the music by ear for the songs I didn’t have sheet music for, and written them down in the strange marks I once marveled at watching Mrs. Huss play the organ. Not only was the show an elementary-school success 😉, I had a blast. And the school gave me Plantie as a thank-you gift.

I was 11 years old.

Mourning the death of Plantie isn’t just about losing a Being that’s been with me most of my life. It’s about questioning myself and confronting my own failures — as a plant mom, and as an Artist. It’s about my anger for all that didn’t go as it could have — anger that I didn’t receive the support or mentoring needed to make me a truly great Artist, anger that I maybe helped kill Plantie, and anger that planties and dreams die at all.

And it’s about grief — that planties die no matter what we do. That sometimes trying really, really hard to keep something alive just speeds up its death. That relationships die. That dreams die. That so, so many children don’t get their needs met. That I didn’t get my needs met, no matter what I did. That we cannot go back — we cannot get back lost time.

On a good day, I tell myself a story that everything happened the way it was “supposed to” and I did a phenomenal job with what life handed me. I tell myself I likely would have been a miserable, anxious, tense addict as well as an Artist if I’d gone down the creative path as a younger person. I tell myself that I’ve lived a good, satisfying, meaningful life. I tell myself that my Artistry comes through in everything I do.

I tell myself I’m still an Artist.

And so now I tell you: I’m an Artist. Maybe Plantie’s death isn’t the death of my Artistry, but death of what’s been getting in its way. As I work through some really deep emotional and psychological baggage during this deep, reflective time of early winter, I find myself on the cusp of an important leap that I hope to make gently and gracefully. A final leap away from doing the kind of work that drains me and weighs me down. A leap away from false beliefs that I must be struggling to live well. A leap away from narratives that I must sacrifice myself on others’ altars to be of true service and prove I’m down for The Cause. A leap away from the fear of telling the 100% truth about who I am, and what I want.

R.I.P Plantie. Thank you for what you represent. Thank you for being a faithful green friend. Thank you for sticking around for so, so long. May your roots, stems and leaves fertilize the soil of other planties. May my past fertilize the soil of the present. Que en paz descanses.

Hello Artist Dreams. Nice to re-meet you. My seat belt is fastened, and I’m listening.



Susana Rinderle

I write about civilization, personal healing, dating, politics, and the workplace. You know, light topics! I'm a trauma-informed coach. wordswisdomwellness.com