When you dig around in the Pass The Pistil archives you’ll find the post below, titled Shooting From the Hip. It’s the very first article I wrote to set the mood, tone, and intention of the blog yet to come. All of what I had to say then still rings true, except like anything we take time to nurture, it evolves — and hopefully into something wonderful.
“LIKE ANYTHING WE TAKE TIME TO NURTURE, IT EVOLVES — AND HOPEFULLY INTO SOMETHING WONDERFUL.”
Somewhere in 2010 I decided that, if I were to live the life I hoped to live, I had to take action — take my life into my own hands. Because, at the time, I felt as if I’d strayed from my path and needed to revisit the tapestry of my upbringing. The experiences and foods woven into the fabric of my being from a young age (a collection of simple but wonderful things), such as the veggie garden my family kept when I was young, chilly fall days picking apples with my grandmother, finding berries tucked under leaves in my mother’s strawberry patch, and spending entire days outside were tugging at my sleeve, waiting for attention.
This love of plants and nature led to my studies in botany and environmental science, and later garden design.
But still, I had an irking feeling I needed to live my life with greater intention and to look where I wanted to go. This is something I learned from white water kayaking. When standing next to river you’re about to run in a tiny plastic boat, you first read the river and then you run it. In reading the river, you learn where the danger lies and what line to take — basically where you want to go (to avoid danger and have the most fun). When running the river, you take this line, looking where you want to go because looking where you want to go (the line you’ve chosen) takes you there. When you look at the things you don’t want to hit and the line you don’t want to take, you go there instead. It might sound incredibly simple, but that’s because it is. Focus on the things you don’t want, you get them. For instance, complaining only leads to more complaining. However, focus on the things you’d like to grow and you’ll grow more of them. So, why not focus on the things you love?
When deciding I needed to take action, Shoot or Pass the Pistil (aka for sh*t or get off the pot) was born. “Get to it and take it to heart.”
During the process of writing, I soon realized the blog wasn’t simply about getting out there and growing a garden, it was so much more. That’s when I shortened the name from Shoot or Pass the Pistil to simply Pass The Pistil, meaning grow what you love and pass it on. Quite literally, passing on the flower and the plants you grow, whether it’s giving seeds to a neighbor or sharing your harvest with family and friends. In the process, we nurture ourselves, our families, our health, and our communities. We grow our lives.
But still, I was trying to figure out what I was trying to say (even though it was there all along).
Around the time I turned 30, I began loosing a friend, and sometimes multiple friends, each year. Needless to say, it was devastating. First it was a friend to cancer days after his 33rd birthday and newly married, then it was a friend when out ski mountaineering. After that, the trend continued. Around the time I turned 40, it was a friend and her two children, both in my daughter’s preschool and then kindergarten, when their plane crashed. It sent us all into a tail spin.
Shortly after this, it hit me. (And honestly, it was more of “duh” moment than an “ah ha” moment.) What I was trying to say had been in my words and writing all along.
GROW WHAT YOU LOVE.
It became my mantra and the words I was compelled to live by — or what was life for? That’s when I redesigned the website and added this message — Grow What You Love — to top of the blog so it was front and center. A reminder of all that’s important to me, to the life I hope to live — because in nurturing my life I nurture the lives of those around me. It was also my quiet way to celebrate the lives of friends no longer with us; I had to make each moment count and help others do the same.
This is around the time I wrote the other article below, titled Grow What You Love And Pass It On.
Soon my efforts evolved into a book (secretly what I hope will be the first in a series of books), Grow What You Love, 12 Food Plant Groups to Change Your Life.
So now, again, I’m recalibrating, ruminating on this moment and river at my feet. Which line to take? First, it’s a facelift to the blog (as set in motion at the end of 2017). But what exactly is next? I’m not sure, except to continue growing what I love: my family and friends, the food we eat, flowers for us and pollinators, seeds for friends, plants for school gardens, Community Squeeze, developing as a writer and photographer, time to travel and spend in nature, working toward a better, healthier environment, and more of everything wonderful. And all I can hope is that my work is a place of inspiration, and that we can all take time to grow what we love, and, quite honestly, make the world better for it.
GROW WHAT YOU LOVE AND PASS IT ON (First published February 17, 2015)
In gardening, as in life, I say, GROW WHAT YOU LOVE. Find the things that make you happy and grow them. Lots of them. If I ever hesitated with a task my mother, not usually sporting the mouth of a sailor, would say, “Sh*t or get off the pot, Emily”. Meaning, if you’re going to do something, then do it. And so too with growing.
Pass The Pistil, shortened from Shoot or Pass the Pistil, is a play on those words. Get to it, make it count and pass it on. Over the years Pass The Pistil has taken on a life of its own. Honing in on what really matters.
First, start. Start small, but start. Next, prioritize. Focus on the things you love and grow them and, like with anything cultivated, thrive. Growing the things you love begets more of the same. All the good stuff — the tangible and obvious — seeds, flowers, food and fun. And all the things in between, the things that make living, living. Finally, share. Pass the pistil and spread the love. Growing isn’t limited to a garden.
It’s a basic recipe, but for now, it’s sticking. Like olive oil, salt and pepper it’s a good place to begin even if it makes no mention of mistakes. They’re in there, mixed in with “all the things in between”, an essential part of the adventure.
So what is this all about? I like to think the name says it all. PASS THE PISTIL. GROW WHAT YOU LOVE, lots of it and pass it on.
SHOOTING FROM THE HIP (First published October 14, 2010)
“Sh*t or get off the pot.” This is a phrase my mother commanded on a regular basis while I was growing up and continues to utter to this day. She has never needed to shout, these five words are enough. Especially for someone like me with a good, Catholic upbringing. (Guilt, duty, respect. They all kick in.) If you want to do something, then do it. Get to it and do it right. Which leads to my mother’s next utterance, often stated a bit more firmly: “And if you’re going to do it half-assed then don’t do it at all.” Well, this about sums it up. Not to offend anyone, but phrases such as these do get to the point (and I’ve taken them to heart).
Shoot or Pass the Pistil, my garden friendly version of “sh*t or get off the pot”, is a resource aimed at inspiring gardeners and exploring fertile ground in an attempt to get both cheeks in on the action. Get to it and take it to heart.
Shoot or Pass the Pistil
Gardening, in its strictest sense, is the cultivation of plants and while this is true, we know it is much more. The tending of plants is the beginning, the crazy love of gardening that comes from the tending of plants is a synthesis of experiences. The expression of this is personal and individual, but also common and shared.
I’ve started Shoot or Pass the Pistil in part because I have yet to come across an easy to read publication that touches on these ideas, from the “how” of gardening to the “why” of gardening. The spectrum of these ideas are not separate, but essential to one another. It is in the cultivation of a plant or garden that we also cultivate ourselves (and each other).
Then there is this insatiable, wren-like, curiosity and love of learning I can’t shake. I have a graphic and insane vision of myself quite literally popping if I don’t begin this process. A forum to explore and test the relationship between the act of gardening and the outcomes of gardening seems essential, vital and necessary. And yet, inspiration for the simple act of gardening might be enough for us to each draw our own conclusions.
Do it now. Grow a garden: kitchen garden, flower garden, potted garden, school garden, community garden. Tend a garden for habitat, play, beauty, contemplation. Get to it and take it to heart.
Though my mother would say it differently, it’s time to Shoot or Pass the Pistil.
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