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. 

Reporting from the front

“This was life then. The thing you had seen that set you apart. When I bring a new book, story, essay into the world, when I give a speech or lead a retreat, I am reporting from the front of the thing I have seen. The thing that sets me apart. Each of us is as individual as a snowflake. Each of us is set apart. It is in all of our individuality, in the sum total of our life experiences, the specificity of our paths, that we have most to offer one another.” – Dani Shapiro, On Being Singular

Yes. This is why I share. This is why I want each one of you to share as well.

The voice of the woods

Botanicals 2013-11-29 Lake Sara

Except for the snow-covered dead of winter, the woods are rarely silent. Leaves crunch under each step. A woodpecker knocks in search of a morning meal. Chipmunks scratch across moss-covered logs. Acorns cascade down from the canopy, pinging off branches before landing softly on the forest floor. If they’re lucky, they’ll be found by an industrious squirrel, buried beneath the ever-changing layer of life that underlies the woods, and then forgotten to someday become one of the forest elders. Continue reading The voice of the woods

Individual results will vary

Toad lilies. Astilbe. Switchgrass. All plants that I should be able to grow well here in Central Illinois (Zone 5b). All plants that have never survived more than a season in my garden, no matter how many times I’ve planted them. Yet, still, I somehow can’t resist these plants as I sail my shopping cart through the aisles of our local garden center. Perhaps I need someone to tie me to the mast so that I can resist their siren song.

Continue reading Individual results will vary

Embrace the Offering of the Present

A couple of weeks ago, my friend and fellow garden writer Kylee Baumle recommended a book — The Backyard Parables by Margaret Roach — to me. When it comes to garden books, particularly those that are more memoir than reference, Kylee and I are cut of similar cloth; her recommendation carries a lot of weight.

A few hours after I ordered my copy from Amazon, Kylee posted a full review and giveaway on her blog, Our Little Acre. Her hearty recommendation to me was multiplied as she places The Backyard Parables at the top of her all-time favorite gardening books list. Coming from Kylee, an avid reader and book review editor for Horticulture magazine, this revelation only whet my appetite for a masterpiece found within the book.

Continue reading Embrace the Offering of the Present

Summoning the courage to show up

A record-breaking warm front has stalled over the Midwest this week. The sounds and smells of outdoors entertain my senses through open patio doors as I write these words. The forecast promises a short run for the balmy weather, but even in its brevity this spring tease has brought a new energy to life.

Continue reading Summoning the courage to show up

What will happen, will happen

I have a confession to make. I worry. I worry a lot. I worry that I worry too much.

This past weekend, as the temperature broke 50 degrees, I worried that the plants would be fooled by a false spring and my garden be wiped out by the true winter that was sure to come.

Then, on Wednesday morning, I read this edict on Facebook, by way of Steve Bender (aka Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener).

“How can you stop this mild winter weather from causing shrubs, trees, and bulbs to bloom too early? Answer: You can’t. So stop worrying about it. Que sera sera.

Continue reading What will happen, will happen