Acknowledging our shared challenge

The life we see on social media is all about the wine and roses, isn’t it? It’s the filter of what others want us to see, not the full picture. This morning, I was walking through the garden and all I saw was the wear and tear (transplant shock that caused a rose to lose all its leaves), chores to do (the mint is starting to spring back through the mulch), and damage (the bunnies have found the lilies and forest grass). So today’s post is more #BeReal than #ShareBeauty. Our lives will always be full of challenges and imperfection and we shouldn’t avoid acknowledging them. Shared challenge, rather than shared beauty, is often our common ground.

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Facing the monster we created

Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. Interspersed with the sounds of panic.

The sounds from inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day.

The sounds so common that we instantly know what they are.

The sounds of an assault rifle shredding lives in another mass shooting in our country.

As the father of a high school student, each pop cuts through my soul, knowing that there’s nothing to prevent the same thing in our community.

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Stepping off our ideological icebergs

If we spend too much time watching cable news and Twitter feeds, the world looks like a giant dumpster fire burning out of control.

Hate.

Outrage.

Pain.

Division.

A year ago, that’s all I saw. We were a week into a new presidency that I couldn’t stomach or even fathom, and all I saw was an impending war for the soul of our country. I had my pitchfork out, entrenched and ready to strike. I’ve read the Facebook posts I made a year ago, and many of them are filled with the same things I saw in the world. Hate. Outrage. Pain. Division. 

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Making room for what’s next

For most of my adult life, I thought I possessed a critical character flaw because I don’t have close, lifelong friends. I’d look at people whose inner circle of friends knows what they were like in grade school, high school, or even college — and wonder what was wrong with me.

I look back on the ages of 20, 25, 30, 35, 40, and 45, and my inner circle looks completely different at each milestone, with very little thread between. I remember the moments of the purest, most intense connection with people who now exist mostly in memory or the periphery of life. I’m often overcome with a nostalgic sadness and regret that those moments are no longer on the center stage of my life.

It’s taken me nearly 47 years to understand, but the impermanence of nearly all of our connections is a good thing. 

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Hearing each other’s stories

This is one of the most salient pieces of art I’ve ever seen — and I have my kid to thank for it. He’s heard me talk about these issues at length, and I’m proud that he sees the importance of us engaging with them and each other’s stories.

One request. If you start it, please watch until the end. Warning, this is difficult to watch. The language is intense and NSFW.

Sharing of the little moments

We’ve had a string of nice sunrises and sunsets lately, but none of the drop everything and grab the camera variety.

I sat drinking coffee on Friday morning, enjoying the calm before I woke my son for school and I prepared for a day at work. Bright orange sun streamed through my apartment kitchen window, silhouetting the coleus cuttings I’m rooting in a water goblet.

Even from a distance, I could see the sky reflected in the bowl and stem of the glass, despite the windows being fogged with condensation. Read More

Created through connection

Relationships. If it’s not already obvious to you that relationships are a constant source of conversation and the subject of endless inquiry, do a little searching. Google returns 130,000,000 pages on human relationships. A search for relationships on Amazon results in 217,000 books. Read More

Beyond our blogs

On May 1-2, I attended the P. Allen Smith Garden2Blog event in Little Rock, Arkansas with 23 other garden bloggers from around the country. Over a non-stop 48 hours, we visited gardens, talked about new garden products with PAS sponsors and partners, and networked with each other.

When I started From the Soil, I had no idea the impact it would have on my life. In the past three years, this blog has given me the opportunity to tour beautiful gardens and learn about the latest and greatest in the garden industry. But travel, products and plants aside, what stands out the most to me is the people I’ve met along the way.

When I got back home from Garden2Blog, I realized something unusual about the hundreds of photos on my camera. Most of them were of people, not plants. The true beauty of an event like Garden2Blog is that it brings us together as gardeners, colleagues, and friends. When we talk, learn and, yes, laugh together, that’s when relationships grow. I don’t truly know P. Allen Smith’s motivation behind Garden2Blog, but I suspect the relationships we cultivate with each other are a large part of the equation.

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My seedy little secret

I’ve been blogging here at From the Soil for just over three years, sharing my gardening adventures with the world. This blog has been a conduit for me to meet countless other gardeners, many of whom have become my closest friends — people that I love and trust deeply. But even among my closest gardening friends, I’ve been keeping a secret — until now. In concert with Steve Bender (of Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener blog) and Kylee Baumle (of Our Little Acre), I’m officially coming out of the garden shed and declaring that I hate fresh tomatoes.

I love tomato sauce, tomato soup, and tomato salsa. Ever since I was a small child harvesting tomatoes in my grandfather’s garden, I’ve loved the scent that working among tomato plants leaves on my hands. I think the first red blush on a ripening tomato is a thing of beauty. The taste of garden-fresh tomato sauce over pasta is one of my favorite meals. I’ll even eat a fresh tomato on a burger if its flavor is suffocated with ketchup, mayo and mustard.

But I hate the taste of a fresh tomato. There I said it, again. I feel liberated.

In the gardening world, proclaiming a distaste for fresh tomatoes is a bit like talking about the time that Uncle Joe was found wandering down the street, drunk, naked and speaking in tongues. Everyone has an Uncle Joe in their family, but no one dares speak of him in public. Normally, when I’m around a gardener who starts gushing about biting into a sun-warmed, vine-ripened tomato,  I simply nod and smile, quietly fighting the nausea creeping up the back of my throat as she describes the experience as the gates of heaven opening as the juice and seeds dribble down her chin.

But not anymore. I now know I’m not alone. Together with Kylee and Steve — my fellow ‘mater haters — I’ll no longer try to hide the ubiquitous tomatoes under a stray lettuce leaf in my salad bowl, ashamed to admit that I’m a gardener without the taste for tomatoes.

Who else shares this seedy little secret? Join us. We’ll share our lettuce.

Be sure to read Kylee’s ‘Please Don’t Make Me Eat Them‘ and Steve’s ‘Confessions of a Mater Hater‘.

2011: A year of kindred spirits

Annual retrospectives are challenging endeavors. Looking back isn’t the problem. I always become contemplative in the waning days of each year, ruminating over the previous twelve months. There’s nothing unique about this; the closing of one year and the beginning of another is a natural signpost in life.

The challenge for me in writing a retrospective lies in preventing the exercise from becoming a self-aggrandizing litany of accomplishments. I’d be remiss to play the humility card and claim that I haven’t done much this year. I’m certainly proud of what I’ve accomplished and appreciative of the resulting opportunities. It feels like I’ve found a stable niche and growing audience for my writing and photography.

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