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A New Collective Energy (and a Public Thank You)

Posted Sep 05 2011 7:19am
There is a large patch of zinnias growing on my front lawn garden, in the middle of the butternut squashes (which are on their second batch of fruits now) and yellow-fleshed watermelons.  When I water them, a veritable dance floor full of pollinators and beneficials rises and flies away.  Butterflies and dragonflies and lacewings and bees.  I sit in a white wicker chair by my front door and read while waiting for the school bus but often the activity in the zinnias is so distracting and interesting to me that I find myself mesmerized as these flying friends of mine spread good from flower to flower, improving the world in their small, collective way.  And so it was that I stood back and saw my group of friends yesterday, who had come on a threatening-rain day to a city miles away to hear my all-of-five-minutes little speech about my book .  I assume my friends all know each other, and many do and and are either already friends or have crossed paths with each other at gardens, city hall, or school (or have read about each other on my blogs), but there were still some new introductions. And as I saw them talking, hugging, laughing, I realized that in their unique way, by being there, together, there was now a new positive energy force in the world.  Theirs.  Collectively.

I want to give a public thank you to these particular women (all of whom are moms, and some of whom are grandmothers), who show up in many ways in my book.  And if and when you read it, you can think of them, and know that there is an actual person behind that story, out there in the world today, doing good:

Ashley Doolittle*:  Ashley served as the vice-chair of the sustainability commission of the newest city in the United States and has shown up and spoken out at City Hall. She passionately supports preparing our children for a changing world, and is most active currently in bringing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) opportunities to our public schools.  Think of Ashley when you read about sustainability, city hall, and what kids need to learn in life.  (Also, her in-laws are mentioned in "I Stand on Your Shoulders.") This is one of my favorite shared memories with Ashley , by the way.
Angela Minyard: Angela is an avid home gardener and a founding member of the Dunwoody Community Garden.  She is the only original board member to still be serving in that capacity.   She serves as treasurer and is critical in facilitating the movement of money to outreach efforts such as those of Team Food Pantry, where we've donated more than 3,000 pounds of food to those in need since the garden opened two years ago.  Think about Angela when you read about home gardens, the community gardens, and growing food for and with those in need.
Kathryn Chambless: Another big home gardener, Kathryn is most well-known at City Hall for giving the extremely moving speech about why backyard chickens meant so much to her special-needs son.  The chicken ordinance lost by one vote, and Kathryn's son no longer has his beloved chickens.  Think of Kathryn when you read about moms at city hall, backyard chickens, local resiliency, and those with disabilities.
Connie Weathers: Connie serves as the chairperson of the Sustainability Commission for my neighboring city of Norcross, and let me tell you, that woman knows everything on earth there is to know about recycling and water quality.  She also just started the community garden in that city as well.  She works harder than almost anyone I know and has a deep and understated perseverance and passion.  Think of Connie when you read about green community certification, recycling, water, and commitment to principles.
Sandi Tax: I met Sandi in the 7-week Organic Farming course I took a few years ago from Georgia Organics with Lynn Pugh at Cane Creek Farm.  Sandi is so funny, pleasant, and passionate that when I think about those days and those hours gathered in a circle discussing crop rotation and plant diseases, trudging around in the mud, or bent over picking strawberries as the heat of late spring told us our class was almost done and our work on our own gardens and farms was calling, I think of Sandi's smiling face.  The fun coincidence?  Sandi had lived right next door to another dear friend of mine!  Think of Sandi specifically when you read the story titled "Cheap, or Dear?"
Janet Folk:  Sandi's neighbor, Janet, was my next-door-office mate when we worked at the world headquarters of UPS together, where I was pregnant with my older daughter.  We have been friends ever since.  I ran the Peachtree Road Race with Janet when I was 34, and we used to walk often at the Chattahoochee River.  We get together sometimes now to weed or thin carrots, which gives us lots of opportunity to talk.  Think of Janet specifically when you read the story titled "The Question That Made Me Stop in My Tracks."  That's where we used to walk. She also used to come to Open Garden at my home, so think of her when you read about that, too.
Debbie Smith:  Debbie was also on the sustainability commission.  She is the creator of the Idbids products ("iddy biddy steps for a greener world")--if you haven't been to its website , check it out.  Debbie now has a non-profit arm of the business that works directly with schools, helping to increase eco-literacy in our nation's children.  Think of Debbie when you read about what kids need to learn in life, and about water conservation (the photo on page 197 is of her Waverly character), air quality, planting seeds for the future, voting with your dollar, and supporting businesses committed to triple-bottom-line sustainability.
Rebecca Barria*: Rebecca, of course, you know.  She is the woman who fell out of the sky to say she wanted to start a community garden, and went on to be the chairperson of that garden and to change our city.  Rebecca is now a paid writer, contributing articles that focus on education and creativity to our local Patch.  Think of Rebecca when you read about moms showing up at city hall, community gardening, things kids need to learn in life, and growing not just food, community, and knowledge, but also leaders.
Thank you, also, to the many people I didn't know who took the time to sit and listen, to my friends' daughters and other family members who joined them, and especially to my daughters and husband, who sat front and center.  And a special shout-out to the City of Decatur for hosting such an incredible weekend-long event that showcased in many ways their deep-rooted and real commitment to principles of sustainability.  In fact, people hired by the city were doing surveys and I was asked what I thought about walking, biking, organic gardening, and supporting local businesses.  I almost said, "Well, I have about 260 pages worth of comments about those questions!"
Anyway, so that was fun and different and a bit of a challenge for me (that is probably the last time you'll see me without a garden tool).  And now it's back to the soil, and to planting for fall.
* I'd like to give an additional thank you to Ashley and Rebecca, along with Kathy Forte, my brother-in-law Mitch, my husband, and my mom for being early readers of my book at a stage that can only be referred to as the hairball stage. Any editing errors are exclusively mine, although I am talking myself into the "perfection of imperfection."  Maybe that's the real gift to give my daughters.
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