Trowels Up!

It’s Earth Day, a time when thousands of people who regularly eat at McDonalds, drive SUVs and spray chemicals on their lawns take a moment to reflect on the miraculous planet on which we all depend.

blossomAnd then the moment passes, and we go back to our spendthrift ways, shopping for stuff we don’t need, and eventually tossing most of it into landfills buried like ugly secrets in every part of this beautiful nation.

Such a short-sighted species we are.

But, on this day, I choose to be optimistic, in part because I’ve brought children into this world, and I have to hope that we’re going to be able to keep it going for them, and all the children on the planet.

One bright shining change I see, from the ways things were almost forty years ago at the first Earth Day, is that awareness is finally growing faster. Back then, I witnessed the first Earth Day celebration at a concert in the shadow of the Washington Monument attended by only a few hundred rag-tag hippies and a small core of a new group of specialists called environmentalists. The word ecology was new to most people. The concept of recycling was widely disdained as ineffectual. We took diversity for granted.

Now we seem to know better. The world has changed, is changing still, and I believe there’s reason to hope that the planet, at least, will survive. Whether humans do remains to be seen. But, if they do, I think gardeners will play a big role in the realignment process of the skewed perspective that has gotten us into this mess.

Gardeners, like farmers, know that you can’t really fool Mother Nature. You might manage a joke now and then, but ultimately, unless we respect the fundamental balance of nature, and how interdependent we are with other life forms, we stand in real danger of poisoning the roots of the tree in which our human nest is delicately balanced.

In 1970 pockets of passionate gardeners recognized the danger of destroying diversity in the lust for corporate profit. Now, millions of dedicated gardeners and visionary citizens around the world are working together to protect the environment and to encourage more people to understand the vital links between all growing things.

The internet has facilitated this process, connecting gardeners worldwide through a vigorous network of sites dedicated to the idea that, as one of my favorite sites,, puts it in their manifesto: gardening matters.

I used to get a certain amount of grief from various people about my compulsive gardening, my oohing and aahing over plants, as if I had some sort of mental problem. Well, I can’t deny that I may have some issues with detachment. But, I stand by my conviction that gardeners are needed, more gardens are always welcome, and there can never be too many flowers.

It’s Earth Day. Today, tomorrow. Hopefully, next year, next millennium.
There’s still time to grow a better world.

Play Ball

In the study of  baseball, as Yogi Berra once noted, “You can observe a lot by watching.”

With that in mind, I embarked last spring on a leisurely course of spectatorship to enlarge my understanding of the game. My prior personal experiences had been limited to watching my older brother pitch during his Little League days, cheering for my son in his short-lived experiments in T-ball, and, for one lackluster season, attempting to master the skills of batting and fielding while on the freshman softball team at my high school.

Since then, my interest in the national pastime had waned, occasionally sputtering into life during the World Series, but never catching fire.

Until last spring.

At first, when I began idly tuning in to watch the Mariners play ball, I  justified the wasted hours on the couch as research for my new book, which revolves around a softball game. I told my husband I needed to refresh my understanding of the game. He found this mildly amusing, and seemed to enjoy clearing up my confusion about the ins and outs of rules and strategy, as I tried to get a grip on the infield fly rule, the purpose of the bunt, and the mystery of the knuckleball.

The addiction came on gradually. The soothing sound of Dave Neihaus‘s voice, the hypnotic rhythm of the ball being struck and caught, the thrilling pulse of the crowd chanting “Ichiro, Ichiro” like some thunderous heartbeat.

Yeah. I could quit anytime.

But, whether or not that’s true, watching all that baseball last season did help me to recognize the vast difference between what the pros do, and what passed for sport back home in rural Virginia, where the most important  result wasn’t who won or lost, but who brought the beer, or whatever.

My new book, Potluck, is a story of Duggie Moon, a cheerily unflappable low-achiever who gets by on his charm and his willingness to work for minimum wage as long as he’s free to live the life he’s chosen as a slacker entrepreneur in the idyllic mountain county of Rapidan, Virginia. Duggie has a soft heart, and some of his best friends would tell you he’s got a soft head too. But he’s always willing to put his own interests aside for the good of the team, and that team is the Moonlighters, sponsored by his older sister Glory  under the banner of her Moonlight Café.

In the town of Dudley, the highpoint of the social calendar is the annual Fourth of July softball tournament, but dark forces are gathering for this year’s normally easy-going event. When his ace-pitcher and longstanding unrequited love Jenny Carson is forced to play for the competition, and a team of  thuggish ringers enters the tournament, Duggie has his hands full trying to keep tempers from flying higher than the homers. And he’s having a tough time focusing because he’s a little paranoid about the  booming crop of pot he’s secretly growing in an old school bus behind his house. All will be well if he can just get it harvested before the Sheriff’s men get wind of it.

In an ordinary steamy  July in Virginia, even the coolest characters find it hard to avoid getting baked. And for Duggie Moon, this summer looks to be a scorcher.

Will he save the day, win the girl, and avoid prison? Try Potluck and find out.