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Within the midst of winter, I found there was, within me... A growing baobab

Needless to say, the Ph.D. process is a long and painful one. It is a period crippled with self-doubts, psychological pressure, and mental vicissitudes. It is important to keep your eyes on the prize, yet it is easy to get lost on the path... I got lost. 

One day, I sowed a baobab seed and decided I would plant it upon my graduation. Somewhat, the image of planting a tree was more tangible and more real than defending a dissertation. I held onto this idea and the baobab became a symbol for my Ph.D. As it was growing, it became a good indicator of my own progress. Over the years, we became good friends. 

Baobab Sprout

Baobabs are magical. Originally from Africa, they are known as the tree of life or the upside-down tree, and they are believed to protect the community that surrounds them. There was one problem however, baobabs cannot survive the Maryland winter conditions. Their level of hardiness only allows them to thrive in the south of the US. Every summer, I would put my potted baobab outside in the yard, and bring it back in during the winters. 

The baobab became a mirror of my own struggles. Just like my rocky Ph.D. ride was marked with ups and downs, the baobab almost died each winter and came back to life in the spring. I learned from the baobab that winters pass... so do the hard times, and he and I kept growing together like that. 


French philosopher Albert Camus once said, "In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer." By that, he means that despite the circumstances, there is a vital force inside us that can overcome just about anything. Like Camus, I eventually found my invincible summer. I overcame my doubts, worked hard, wrote my dissertation, defended it, and graduated.


By then, the baobab had reached the ceiling. It was time. I owed it to him to fulfill my promise and find his place under the sun. Saint Exupery's puts it best, "You become responsible forever for what you've tamed." I am  responsible for my Baobab.

Landry digeon Growning baobab

I graduated in the summer of 2020. Because we were in the midst of a pandemic, it was complicated to plan anything at all. Many attempts to explain my undertaking were followed by awkward silences and polite turndowns. But I was committed to finding a good home for the baobab. Ideally, it would be on a farm somewhere in the south of the US, and hopefully, I could monitor its growth. By then, I had learned to keep my eyes on the prize, and so I kept searching. 

This is when I ran into the story of "Robert is Here," a fruit stand/farm based in Homestead, Florida. Robert's story is a poetic one. On their homepage, it reads, "It's an amazing story about a little boy who opened a fruit stand in 1959 at age 6 to help his father sell produce from the family farm. To get the attention of folks passing by, Robert's dad scrawled the words "Robert Is Here" on signs placed on each side of the table. That day, Robert sold out all his produce by noon – and a budding farmer and entrepreneur was born."

Upon reading his inspiring story, I contacted 'Robert is Here.' Ironically, Robert wasn't there that day, and I talked to Robert's son instead. It turns out that Robert Jr. is passionate about trees. I later learned that his life goal was to plant one tree a day. For me, my baobab is more important than all the hundred other trees because it is him that I have watered. It is the time I have spent on my baobab that made him so important.

The stars and the trees were aligned, and so the very next day, I rented a truck, loaded the baobab, and went on a journey down to Homestead, Florida.

Landry Digeon Baobab trip

16h13 minutes from Baltimore to Homestead (but really, it took 23 hours) 

Robert is Here

Robert is Here farm and food stand

Landry Digeon Robert Jr Nelly

Robert Jr., me, Nelly

Landry Digeon

October 15, 2020

Robert Jr., Mama Nelly, and the staff at the farm welcomed us with warmth. We connected immediately. There was a festive atmosphere. The hole to plant the baobab was ready. Everyone was very thrilled and as excited as I was. Such excitement around the tree made it clear to me that "El Bab" was home. Robert Jr. and I planted it together. We are now forever bound by this act. 

Robert Jr., Mama Nelly, and I have kept in touch. Not only do they take very good care of "the most beautiful tree on Earth," but they send regular video updates. I am very grateful for their commitment, generosity, and kindness, and I thank the universe for our paths crossed. Now, Homestead's weather remains sweet all year long, and the baobab does not lose its leaves anymore in the winter. It seems that my old companion, too, found his invincible summer, and that makes me deeply, deeply happy.

December 20, 2020

February 28, 2021

June 21, 2021

November 21, 2021

September 2, 2022 

January 4, 2022 

September, 30 2022 
(made it through the Ian Hurricane)


May 6, 2022 

February 14, 2023

On April 13, 2023, After 2 years, 5 months, and 27 days, I returned to the "Robert is Here" farm in Homestead, Florida, to pay my respects to my old friend, the baobab, and see Robert Jr. and Mama Nelly. I was enchanted by the harmonious scenery: El Bab is nesting and roosting cover for small birds, and he is surrounded by people, kids, and animals. He doubled in size and looked strong and majestic. The fertile ground, sweet weather, and lively environment certainly contribute to his growth and well-being, but I know that Robert Jr. and Mama Nelly's energy, care, and dedication make a world of difference. Love is everything, and for that, I am forever grateful.


As I am leaving the US, I trust our friendship will keep growing stronger. We agreed to meet again in a few years. I am looking forward to that day! Till then, take care, my old friend!  

April 13, 2023

Me, Mama Nelly, Robert Jr. 

Robert Jr. keeps on sending videos of the Baobab. Each time, I am amazed at his evolution, for the 'baby' keeps growing extensively. Though we now grow separately, I still feel strongly connected to my old companion. Our energies still mirror each other, and I try to measure up to him. 

Sept 7, 2023

Sept 7, 2023


Tree Healer Mama Nelly
Sept 23, 2023

Sept 23, 2023: The mighty baobab had a near-death experience when a speeding car crashed through the fence, narrowly avoiding a catastrophic collision. I thank the universe for this miraculous escape. Thank you, Mama Nelly, for protecting it

November 10, 2023

Screenshot 2024-06-01 at 9.34.30.png

May 29, 2024

One seed can take you on a long unexpected journey and teach you things one does not find in the books. It is a humbling experience. For me, this story is about resilience, commitment, human connections, growth, and above all,

the magic of life. 

Landry Digeon

To be continued...

You can visit the baobab at Robert is Here

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