Phew, that was fast. I put the finishing touches on an article late last night and it is already up on the Guardian website. This one, about the relationship between myself and my maternal grandmother is a bit more personal than usual and I am still getting used to having put it out there. However, it is also just the sort of thing I am pushing myself to write more of despite fears and reservations.
I’ve struggled over the years (more than I care to admit) with feeling like an outsider in the gardening industry. My personal history just doesn’t look like many of the stories I’ve heard from the overwhelming majority of garden writers. And so I have hidden who I am. That’s not to say that my writing is not honest or true, but that there is more, much, much more.
I have often felt that what I had to say about my own experiences was too much, too heavy, too messy, inappropriate for this venue (garden writing) …not quaint and cute enough. I’ve silenced myself in small ways as a result. As what I produce has increasingly become tied to my ability to make a decent living I’ve silenced myself still more.
I took the first steps away from that self-imposed choke hold a few years ago and then moved forward further still last year with the Recreating Eden documentary and a personal piece for Organic Gardening magazine. I saw these venues as opportunities to push myself and reveal more about past experiences that have lead me to where and who I am as a gardener. And as a person too. It’s difficult to separate the two and I suppose maybe the problem is that while my way of creating a palatable public presentation was personable, it withheld the complexity of my humanness. In the end neither the outcome of the documentary nor the article were nearly as dramatic as they felt at the time.
This new piece is another take on the Organic Gardening article, which will be evident within the first few sentences. I suppose the thing is there is no individual story that sums things up. I am often asked to talk about how I got started gardening and I have to admit that I have never been able to answer easily or succinctly. There are many stories, and a book’s worth of experiences that lead me to where I am. I know in my heart that complexity is the truth behind all of our lives and that if I want to see and feel that I am not an outsider (perhaps we all are) then I need to be willing to take a chance and step into my own fears a little bit. Or a lot.
The best gardening event of the year, Seedy Saturday Toronto is coming up this week! This year it’s in a new venue and at a new time, which should be interesting. Once again I will have a table and will be selling my wares. We’ll be debuting a new t-shirt that I know you’ll love. I’ll also have some of my own surplus seeds to trade.
If what’s on television is any indicator The Brits are clearly more progressive than us when it comes to gardening. Here in North America broadcasters like HGTV are still fumbling around in the dark trying to figure out the “garden” in Home and Garden, often deciding to just forgo the garden part entirely. Apparently, garden equals slabs of expensive stone pavers, a fancy seating area with loads of pillows that can’t be left outside or they’ll be moldy and gross before lunch, with some kind of no-work coniferous bush slapped in here and there.
Meanwhile, over in the UK they are making some relevant garden programming that people like me can actually almost, sort-of relate to. A few months back I was asked who I looked up to in British gardening and the first person that jumped to mind is Charlie Dimmock. I know she thinks too much has been made of the fact that she often didn’t wear a bra on Ground Force, but, HELLO, that would NEVER be allowed on TV here. It is a big deal! And a woman getting down and dirty in the rain and mud with the guys. Another big deal. It shouldn’t be, because after all, women go bra-less and work as hard as men in home gardens everywhere, everyday, all of the time. Sadly, this is not the reality North American television presents us with. Nope, instead we are force-fed a gaggle of women gardeners with perfect teeth who look like they smell fresher than roses, and are somehow able to maintain pristine French tip manicures while hosting a garden show.
Further case in point: this spin-off project, LandShare, from a food program called River Cottage. Landshare doesn’t seem to be working quite yet but will eventually hook up would-be gardeners looking for space to grow with people who have surplus space that they are willing to share. Because, OH MY GOD, there are people who want to grow but don’t have the space to do it in. Who knew?
We need something like this here. When you get on that please put me on the list as a grower looking for space.