The Meaning Of Life, The Universe and Everything In A Flower Bud

(With apologies to Douglas Adams)

Every nurseryman I know got into the business because they had an affinity for plants; and therein lies one of the great paradoxes of our trade. The best plantsmen, the great plant explorers of our age and indeed past ages have had an eye for a wonderful plant but generally a head full of compost when it came to making money with them.

The artist’s eye saw the soul of the plant and instantly understood how it thrives and enhances our lives. I have walked production and test fields with such people and have seen their scanning senses pull one plant from thousands as distinctive and worthy of attention.

I have similarly had people ask me how I could pick out one small plant from thousands while scanning greenhouse benches full of similar plants. How could I pick out the one sick one?

I would answer that once you’ve seen a million healthy ones, the sick ones stand out — in an attempt to say that I had absolutely no idea how that one plant would speak to me.

Our plantsman’s reality is that we operate in “sympatico” with our plants.

There’s an instant acceptance but never-ending wonder at an emerging seed and no matter how many millions of seeds I’ve started, I confess that wonder is still there for each and every seed. It’s the delight in feeling the wonder of thousands of plants about to grow again after being snow-covered for 4 months.

It’s the delight on an early spring morning of having thousands of nursery blooms and not having to share that sensation with any living soul. Indeed, it is one of absorbing the exuberance of nature unfolding.

There are no magic words to adequately share these “nurseryman moments”, those skills, the attitude, or involvement with the plant world.

You Get It Or Not

You look at pictures in a book and you either “get it” and know you are, as Canadian author Lucy Maude Montgomery described, a “kindred spirit” or you don’t.

Your sensibilities lie elsewhere and the pictures are simply gorgeous pictures.

But if garden pictures speak to you as they speak to me — the words aren’t necessary. You understand the seed emerging, the bud unfolding and the spirit that emerges to become a player on the universe’s stage.

And in the late stages of winter, this is enough.

22 Lessons I Learned From Painting My Office

I have just finished renovating my office, and there are a few lessons I believe I should share with you.

  • The first, is that I am a terrible judge of color in a room. This was pointed out quite firmly to me while a certain person I live with and I were in the paint department. Ahem…. she was right.
  • The second, is one we all know all too well and that is that things take longer than they should. So a project I had tasked for one week grew into a three week — and counting- project.
  • I am a chainsaw carpenter — close counts. Caulking and paint hide many sins.
  • I am not a painter. While I have excellent hand eye coordination, I do not have fine finger coordination and masking tape is my best friend.
  • I also learned that masking tape bleeds if it is not ironed onto the wall.
  • I have far too many books. (My favorite book this morning is an 1891 version of John Bartlett’s “Familiar Quotations”.)
  • After moving all of my books and furniture out of the office, I needed a chiropractor. I was slower and smarter moving stuff back in but…
  • Caulking floor trim is fraught with opportunities to make a mess. I have been told I never pass on an opportunity.
  • If you get white latex paint on your jeans, you can soak the jeans and then rub like crazy. If you get it early enough it all comes out.
  • I do not know where the three whiteboards and stands came from. Ditto the yoga mat that was never used and is still in its store wrapping.
  • So that’s where that box was!
  • My kids have brought back some very cool presents from their trips over the years. Between these and the ones they made as small children, there were some tears shed.
  • I did a little work on my laptops while all of this was underway. I have a Windows system and a Mac, and I prefer the Mac. Having said that, I am delighted to be back on my big office iMac. (I have the Windows system for dictation and the Macs for everything else.)
  • One really should throw stuff out rather than keep it, “just in case.”
  • So that’s where X went! I found several X’s
  • I’m missing one T. E. Lawrence book. It wasn’t stolen, I’ve just never bought it and this will have to be remedied. When one is moving books, one must investigate them thoroughly. Which may account for the one-week project being extended somewhat.
  • My rugs from Jordan and Timbuktu will have to get along with the smaller ones from East Asia. Color clashing is fine in my office.
  • Which leads me to the question, with that many interesting rugs, why did I lay a new floor?
  • My history book collection is now approaching the size of my old gardening book collection. Something has to give in the next few years As I have no more space for shelving. And yes, before you ask the rest of the house is fully shelved as well.
  • My Tom Swift Jr. collection only needs one more book to complete it and it really should be up in my office. As I told a friend, I could buy it from a bookstore but I’m going to find it “in the wild”. This gives me a reason to haunt old and used bookstores.
  • I found stuff! Now I know where that package of o-rings for my scuba gear went. This is only one example and I’ve put all these new-found treasures in a “safe place” where I won’t lose them. The challenge of course is remembering where that damnable safe place is.
  • I now firmly believe one should do this kind of cleanup exercise quite regularly.

Watch for my next update in 20 years when I do this again.

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Do you think you’re losing your memory?

A few weeks ago, I questioned whether I was losing my memory. I’d do a task on my website and the next day I’d take a look to do it again, only to surprise myself that it had been done.

This wasn’t good news and for a few days I was quite shaken., I have a family history of Alzheimer’s and this might be a warning shot across the bow. But then I read a similar story from Copyblogger about eroding attention span and thought about this.

Two days later, I ran an impromptu test by asking myself to name just two of the titles I’d just read through my rss feed not two minutes before.

I couldn’t.

Oh crap! (That’s not what I really said but this is a family friendly writer)

I thought about this for a few days. I made notes to myself about the kinds of things I remember and what I forget and thought about it some more.

Internet Attention Deficit Syndrome

The bottom line is I clearly have Internet Attention Deficit Syndrome. A condition caused by trying to jam far too many unrelated items of news and information into my brain on a daily or even hourly basis.

I’m not sure any of us are meant to emulate a computer with all that data going into our memory banks. And while I’m sure it’s in my head somewhere, the problem is that I haven’t related the new information to anything else so that giant connected 4-d spider web we call memory is not functioning the way it was designed to do. It’s filled with irrelevancies and single unconnected facts.

I have to remind myself, my brain isn’t an “it’s overloaded” but rather I’m overloaded”.

I’m not really losing my memory, I’m simply overloaded. (Yes, I do repeat this to myself when I start worrying.)

Research On Aging Shows

Aging research shows that adults only slow down in memory responses because we relate everything to everything else in our brains and there’s just that much more inside us to access. It’s not we forget, it’s that it takes longer for the processes to work. Dr. Michael Ramscar wrote this as part of the abstract for a much longer study report:

”Rather the results suggested that older adults’ performance might result from applying a strategy that may have been shaped by their wealth of real-word decision-making experience. While this strategy is likely to be effective in the real world, it is ill suited to some decision environments. These results underscore the importance of taking into account effects of experience in aging studies, even for tasks that do not obviously tap past experiences.”

Personally Speaking

From a personal point of view, this means I’ll remember better if I’m more selective about what I read. Rather than trying to inject it with a firehose, I’m working to set up a selective system with fewer but richer resources.

It might be compared to building rock walls. Instead of taking a full truckload of rock and gravel, I’ll only take the larger rocks to build my walls. I’ll let the gravel stay in the quarry (or Internet) rather than in my working space (brain).

Digital Minimalism

It’s called digital minimalism and here’s a quick primer on how to transition to it. (link is to blog post but the book — link on his site — is excellent)

After six months with increasing amounts of minimalism, I’m feeling human and competent again. I’m one of those works in progress we like to confess to rather than the painful truth of not having done anything significant.

I’m now quite selective about who I read and listen to.

Pruning The Voices

Slowly but surely I’ve been pruning out words and authors that don’t inspire me or that are repetitive in their work.

I’ve deleted paid memberships in three online sites. I have none left.

I only take courses with limited duration and the specific training tasks I need.

My RSS feeds have been decimated with entire sections deleted.

My email subscription folder looks like a ghost town.

Note this isn’t a one time pruning. I constantly find new authors and new inputs and my feeds slowly increase over time. But now, I take a few minutes every month to prune newsletters and rss feeds to focus only on those that meet my current needs.

Curated Newsletters

My preferred reading now is via a curated newsletter and I’m intrigued and interested in those. I take very few straight newsletters anymore.

I also have a stack of books (this is another addiction I’m working on and will report back about) on a side table in the living room waiting for me to read.

Bottom Line On Losing Your Memory

I’ll have to get back to you with more memory research you can use. Consider this a first step.

What I can tell you is I feel much better already with the reduced information flow.

My info-stream is a richer flow with more useful and interesting information and far fewer bits of flotsam and jetsam.

The effect of my meditations last longer before I feel my body ramping back up.

I’m not as stressed about current affairs (having stopped constantly updating the feed and avoiding the current outrage-du-jour.)

And yes, my memory is fine. Thanks for asking.

Click here to join me as I explore the Net and Aging (and anything else that strikes me as interesting)

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