Stories from the road - joy in Seattle and Chicago

It seems like yesterday that I was trying to remember to think in terms of 2016 - somehow, the calendar flipped. Life as a gardener/writer is turning out to be quite different from my former, get-in-the-car-each-morning, drive to the office version. Rather than years with beginnings and endings, this feels more like a continuum. 

And so my January planning flowed seamlessly into February seed planting and local workshops, followed by packing and airports and exciting, varied, satisfying trips to Seattle and Chicago. With Virginia and transplanting staring me in the face, I am thankful for a day where I can collect my thoughts and memories and experiences. That is exactly what I will attempt to do in this blog post. 

Family and Flower show in Seattle

We fell in love with Seattle when we lived there in 1983, a young, living-on-the-financial-edge couple with a small child doing a post-doc and working as a nurse. We love it no less in 2016, especially with that small child now a wife and mother - meaning Sue and I are grandparents. 

A chance to speak at the Northwest Flower and Garden show is what brought us there in mid February. After some quality time (far too little, but we appreciate whatever we can get) with Sara, Adam, Aaron and Aiden, Sue and I relocated to downtown. My talks on Saturday and Sunday - both on tomatoes, of course - were thrilling experiences for me. The audiences provided attention and energy. On Sunday I was so pleased to share the stage with Brad Halm and Charlie Nardozzi in a unique three part, rapid fire workshop. The only regret was that both of my books sold out on Saturday, leaving me with a book-less signing session on Sunday.

In between workshops Sue and I got to peruse the gorgeous flower show, and seek out wonderful beer, Indian food and pizza for our various meals. Being in a hustling, bustling city with so many opportunities to walk to so many interesting places is a delight.

I am already receiving emails from the various gardening friends from the show - some familiar, many new. Seeds and stories are being shared, questions asked and answered. This is as it should be, and it is one of the aspects of my new journey that I really enjoy.

The space in between 

There was a bit of drama spanning the return from Seattle and departure to Chicago. Sue had her scheduled shoulder surgery on Thursday (which went well). Unfortunately, the morning after had a bit of a bump; clearly working all of the "stuff" that they gave her out of her system was a bit challenging. This necessitated a delay of one day; fortunately this was possible (I do wish I had a recording of the chat I had with Kristie, my Chicago host - let's just say there was some angst transmitted when my ability to attend was touch and go).

Warmth at the Chicago Botanic Garden - the weather, and the people

This trip represented a bit of a marathon that tested my endurance and ability to sustain energy levels. With Sue's shoulder and recovery on my mind, an early morning flight to Chicago set off a remarkable, memorable 24 hours which I easily survived - and immensely enjoyed.

Awaken...shower...airport.  Coffee...muffin...flight - ride to the Chicago Botanic Garden (a most wonderful place). Kristie - brief tour, a seat - power point for last minute tweaks (I always change my talks at the last second).  At 11:30 or so - Action!


The blogger lunch was superb.  And far too brief. Alongside my fellow garden writers, gardeners and bloggers were helpful, friendly staff that help make the CBG and its events run smoothly. After a delicious meal, we spent well over an hour talking our passions - gardening in all its aspects, with a bit of a focus on tomatoes (imagine that!). Seeds of lasting friendships were planted that day, and I am so grateful to now know such a talented group of people.

Somehow my talk was then just a few minutes away. The room was not only buzzing, but full....and my heartbeat jumped a bit (as it always does before a talk). Kristie introduced me and we were off - I told stories, we shared information, it went by in the blink of an eye. I appreciate all those who attended, and look forward to hearing from those who wish to ask questions, or just stay in touch.

I was then whisked off (there were several moments of being whisked off during the day - which is fine...I am fully whisk-able!) to the library to sign books and begin some wonderful conversations with fellow tomato enthusiasts. Alas, the books ran short here as well (I believe that we may have gotten caught between 2nd and 3rd printing, which is a bit staggering in itself). 

Off to the seed swap we went - I brought well over 200 seed samples with me and they were gone in the blink of an eye. Our tomato question table was busy, and busy means that time flies. Before I knew it, the day was done, and it was time to finally head for the hotel to check in - and time to allow myself for the first time that day to realize that I was perhaps just a bit tired.

One thing about being the speaker at events is an inability to take lots of pictures. I've got a few - and sprinkled them about above. Words will have to suffice.

Here is a great overview of the day created by Gloria of the CBG

Thanks to so many!

Finally as to who to thank, once I start, it would not only be a very long blog post in itself, but I would run the risk of leaving off important names; I will therefore focus on just a few names.

In Seattle, Janet Endsley, master of the Northwest Flower and Garden Show, Anna Micklin of the University Bookstore, my cohorts for the Sunday talk and fellow authors and gardeners Charlie Nardozzi and Brad Halm....and everyone who came to my talks, bought books, shared their own gardening stories with me.

In Chicago, the CBG folks - Kristie Webber, my main contact and host (and who I was delighted to meet after my Sunday talk in Seattle), Gloria Ciaccio, creator of the blogger lunch and provider of throat lozenges, and Lisa Hilgenberg, plant expert extraordinaire with whom I could talk gardening and tomatoes for hours....and then, of course, my fellow bloggers who generously shared their time with me at our lunch - Meg, Jane, Cassandra, Nina, Carol, Mike, Beth, Ramon, Marcy, Shawna, Diana, Katje and Lamanda...and everyone from CBG who helped out at the swap and who shared kind words with me during the day.

And one more name - my wife's friend, Susan Depew, who pinch hit for me while I was away, and eased my mind greatly, allowing me to fully throw myself into the experience.

Watch for a special section soon on my website where I list full names and blogs or pages for all of the bloggers that I was so fortunate to meet on that special Sunday in surprisingly warm (but, yes, windy!) Chicago.