December 11, 2022
Gotta admit, your last letter read like poetry. What else can you say about a passage like this: “About three weeks ago I was lying in bed, deep under a down duvet in the earliest hours, watching the sun slowly illuminate the trunks of trees on the ridge above and feeling a cool breeze on my face gently coming and going from the open window–it was like being kissed awake.”
Wow. Just wow! Like the finest art always seems to do, that passage transported me into a world I’ll never know myself. Very well done. Closest I’ll ever get to reading a romance novel.
My mornings never begin like that. Mine all begin with pain, groans, regret, an endlessly scrolling of things I need to do suddenly running through my mind like movie credits. Always in a rush to start. Never knowing where to begin. First words out of my mouth are invariably strings of cussing so rich and imaginative that, I’m told, they are reverently read by the souls of dead beatniks in the coffee shops of Hell.
So on the cosmic plane, maybe I deserved the gloating that so jarringly contrasted with all that beautiful writing in your letter. So, yeah, about your GardenComm Gold Medal for your excellent book, Tropical Plants and How to Love Them, indeed I had heard and, indeed, have been trying to forget. Nevertheless, I’m very happy for you, and will be the first to admit this recognition was well deserved.
And to think, until I saw all that in your letter, I had been proud of winning a Silver Medal.
I’d like to think that, if the roles were reversed, I’d show more class, but no one on the planet, including me, can possibly imagine that happening. So, I will chalk this up to karma for cussing so much and, perhaps, the erratic, arbitrary capriciousness of the judges. Maybe I had a comma in the wrong, place. Too many non-sentence sentences. Perhaps I took them too far past their comfort zones with off-color humor. So, going forward, I will simply try to cut my morning cussing by half and try harder to write good. Or at least write the banal, trendy, choir fodder stuff that will, like puppetry, cause the judges to involuntarily tap my submissions with their magic wands. Like a twitch. Or the first motion of a prolonged seizure.
The dying days of this garden year continue to be mild and surprisingly rewarding. The November to April gray gloom has descended, but even now in December there is still plenty of color chugging along. Sometimes I feel like I’m more fond of the late fall color than I am its peak. The maples and sassafras and blackgums indeed dazzle, but there’s something more noble about the russets and browns of oak leaves hanging on. I really like the clompy (a word I made up and demand it makes next year’s Oxford English Dictionary List of New Words) show of green, yellow, gold, and brown of the sweetbay that has grown well above our second floor bedroom window. I’m amazed by the sober psychedelia of ‘Burkwood’ viburnums. And, like you, I truly love whatever colors oakleaf hydrangeas decide to wear.
I’ve been underwater with indoor house projects of late so the garden has gotten little attention. I finally fished all the ginkgo leaves off the pool cover. Took a new approach. Each day after work, ten to twenty minutes of scooping them out. Two weeks of lifting at non-ergonomic angles and plenty of putrid odor and the job is done. We’ll see how the soaking wet 4′ x 4′ x 4′ pile of matted ginkgo leaves I netted out breaks down in the compost bin. I mixed in some mushroom compost and also added hellebore leaves but I’m not expecting it to heat up. Fortunately, that was but a small fraction of the total leaf drop. I was able to chop most of the leaves with my mower better than any other year. Then I blew the little bits wherever. Saved a lot of time.
The upcoming calendar is daunting. Projects to finish, both inside and out, travel, talks, holidays. Oh, and we’ll be heading to Atlanta more often to visit our son and daughter-in-law. They just had a beautiful baby daughter, our first grandchild. Her name is Celina Marie.
A beautiful baby grand daughter, Christmas, and a New Year, lots of reasons for optimism and joy. I’ll try harder to greet each morning with a death grip on positivity. And I will be receptive to feeling the clompy green, gold, yellow, brown sweetbay leaves kiss me awake. I vow to cuss less in 2023. And who knows? Maybe next year I’ll win a Gold Medal and you won’t. And, then, haha, you’ll be in MY orbit!
PS-That whole thing about the low water on the Mississippi causing a supply chain Big Gulp shortage, it was all just a ruse to drive up prices.
Scott, you are no mean slinger of the English language either and your letters always bring laughter and the comfort of commiseration to me. Thank you.
Thanks! And no one should ever underestimate the need for comfort of commiseration.
Congratulations, Grandad! You won the best prize-just think of all the fun you are going to have watching Celina grow!
Your son sure takes after you in looks! Congrats on being a first time grandpa!
You’ve made some great photos, Scott. The Ginko carpet looks good to me. And the Grandchild! I would say your cup runneth over. Thanks!
I have three grandkids. As the saying goes, “If I had known how much fun grandkids were going to be, I would have had them first!”
You don’t know me, but you and I seem to live parallel lives… Silver—not GOLD—GardenComm Award (when it was known as Garden Writers Association), newly minted grandparent, and swearing to rival a sailor with Tourette’s. I’m sure if we sat down with an adult beverage or two we would find other overlapping qualities as well…
I’m writing to wish you luck and offer support in reducing your daily swearing output. Not long ago I undertook a similar campaign. I share some tips, tricks and techniques for swearing cessation below in the hope that they may help you in your personal journey to cut back on cussing.
Anticipating the arrival of my first grandchild three years ago I determined that I would quit cussing. As the geographically most distant grandparent—the one who usually gets named after her dog or some arresting (and usually embarrassing) personal attribute (such as unwanted facial hair)—I was strongly motivated. I was convinced—and horrified—that I’d become known as Potty Mouth Grandma. So I decided to quit cussing Cold turkey.
It was HARD and I struggled mightily. (The swear jar didn’t work for me. Snapping a rubber band on my wrist for every transgression had no impact. And daily meditation on the subject only wound me up.) Maybe I needed something to bridge from hard core swearing to family-friendly self expression. Heroin addicts, I whined to anyone who would listen, at least have methadone to help wean them from their addiction…
I racked my brain and finally came up with a solution: Cowboy Cussing. Dagnabbit! What in tarnation! Dad-blame it! I tried them all, but nothing left me feeling fully expressed. So I switched to Pirate Cussing. Growling a heartfelt ARRRRRRR from the depths of my diaphragm and threatening to keel haul someone while throwing in a little swashbuckling got closer to the sentiments I would typically convey with conventional swearing. But I still felt a gap, a craving for the forbidden fruit.
I shared my struggles with a nursery owner friend one day. She suggested that while I may run the risk of becoming Potty Mouth Grandma if my self improvement attempts failed, I ran the risk of losing my mortal soul should I successfully kill one of my defining characteristics. How would people know me, she argued, if my vocabulary weren’t so blue? She suggested a change in attitude rather than a fundamental personality overhaul: why not consider them sentence enhancers rather than swearwords and go back to having a little more fun with language?
F*** it, I thought, and returned happily to my previously colorful and authentic style of communicating and am much happier for it.
(And what, you ask, did my (now) two granddaughters wind up calling me? Gramma. Just plain ole gramma. You see, they live in Taiwan and we have not been allowed to visit one another for almost 3 years due to quarantine restrictions. In that time, the oldest one has become a bit of a potty mouth her own self, which, of course takes the charge off of my own personal swearing, and automatically knocks Potty Mouth Grandma out of consideration as a possible name. Out of the mouths of babes…)