Redefining his summit

From July 16-27, 2017, my son and I, along with three other boy scouts and two other dads in Crew 716-J-02, backpacked 84 miles through Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimmarron, New Mexico. This story takes place on Thursday, July 27, Trail Day 11.


We came to a sudden halt just a few miles from the end of our trek. Why were we stopping?

I was sixth in line, a couple of hundred feet from my son who was in the lead. We’d assumed lightning spacing a mile or so before, remembering the ranger’s advice if we got caught in the middle of one of Philmont’s daily thunderstorms.

“Keep at least 50 feet apart on the trail, so that if one of you gets hit by lightning, it doesn’t jump from one person to the other.”

The sky rumbled and my annoyance grew in concert with the intensity of the rain. We didn’t have time for a break if we were going to beat the storm back to base camp. My son turned to look up the line as I walked toward him, and my frustration became concern as I got close enough to see the fear in his face.

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The wisdom of a driver named Minnie

I heard her pleasant good evening, how are you all tonight? as I ducked my head into her Chevy Cruze, barely making out her profile in the driver’s seat, that five o’clock view you get of most Uber drivers’ faces. Minnie was our ride from the hotel to a Latin restaurant a few miles away, our short connection a happenstance of supply and demand at the right time, right place. Her voice was as pleasant as the smile that graced the corner of her mouth and her personality filled the car with joy.

Our trip didn’t last more than a few minutes, but we learned that Minnie was born in rural Northern Arkansas, not far from Memphis. She’d spent years in Detroit but moved to Louisville for a new start away from a once vibrant Motor City.

I was there when our mayor smoked crack, she noted.

Ah, good old Marion Barry, I chuckled.

She was quick to defend her former home and her family members that still live there. They’re doing a lot better now. 

She told us about her mother who’d recently passed — the glue of their family, the reason for all coming together on a regular basis. Her family was a United NationsWe had blacks, and Asians, and Caucasians, and Puerto Ricans. And we all came together. She worried that they’d drift apart now that their matriarch was gone.

As we approached our destination one of us commented how upside-down the world seems right now. Minnie paused, and said matter-of-factly, We just need a little more love. Love is easy. It takes effort to hate. 

Her words bounced around in my mind and heart as we stepped out of the car and wished her a wonderful evening.

Love is easy. It takes effort to hate. 

Renewing myself at Emiquon

March has been a month unlike any other.

My work responsibilities have expanded and new opportunities for professional growth appear daily.

I’m helping guide a group of 10- and 11-year-old boys as they learn what it means to be leaders as Boy Scouts.

I’m doing my best to give my son my undivided attention when we’re together.

I’ve been intentional about being present and investing in those relationships that I hold dear, those close and across the miles.

I’ve even been able to dabble in the world of garden speaking, presenting three workshops to Illinois gardeners whose senses have awoken at the hint of spring.

I’ve never felt more engaged in life, yet I’ve fallen down when it comes to taking a moment to recharge myself in the best way I know how — getting outdoors and allowing Mother Nature to fill me with renewal.

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Holding our attention: A visit to Olbrich Botanical Gardens

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My wife and I had the great pleasure of visiting Olbrich Botanical Gardens in Madison, Wisconsin in early June. Situated on 16 acres along the northeast shore of Lake Monona, the gardens were envisioned by Madison attorney Michael Olbrich in 1916, but not opened until after his death in 1952. Olbrich was instrumental in the development of the University of Wisconsin Arboretum as well. Read More

Interior details at P. Allen Smith’s Moss Mountain Farm

Having returned back home after participating in P. Allen Smith Garden2Blog 2013 event in Arkansas, I’ve been reflecting on how this year’s event was different than my inaugural trip in 2012. Last year, I focused so much on the wonderful people involved in the event that I missed a great many of the details that make Moss Mountain Farm such a inviting place. This year, I was determined to capture more of the warmth of the place.

I’m far from an interior design expert, but even my unrefined eye could appreciate the precision and thought Allen has put into his home. Down to the angle of each piece of pottery, the interior of the farm house is at once perfect, yet hospitable. I hope that my images below convey a small fraction of the beauty of Allen’s home.

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