Thursday, July 4, 2013



My garden this year is mostly populated by volunteers, and a good thing too, otherwise there wouldn't be much there. There are several patches of Mexican sunflowers, and a couple of surprise pumpkins (or gourds, perhaps :), and even a cosmos or two. The only thing I planted myself were two rows of peas, in a fit of energy and desperation at the end of May, and a tiny collection of tomato, cucumber, and annual starts that I bought at the farmer's market, which is cheating, but I don't care.

I'm not a very good gardener. I'm not good at imposing order: I hate thinning what I've planted and I almost never pull out volunteers. It's an unwillingness to choose between serendipity and what I think I want. In a way, it's a refusal to take responsibility, and/or to pretend I have control. Before I fall overboard, I'll admit that I do distinguish between 'volunteers' (plants I like) and 'weeds' (plants I don't like), although I'm not very good at pulling the latter either.

cosmosHow do you know when to push for change and when to accept what's offered? When is it right to change course—in a sort of zen exercise of being present—in order to follow what you have before you. And when should you pull it out, to leave space for the seedling that you thought you wanted there?

The space of my life is overrun with both planted seedlings and volunteers. And I can barely keep up with either one. I met an important mentor because I didn't do well enough on a Spanish placement exam. I found my first job in Barcelona because I got lost in an office building. I got the rights to the Spanish edition of The Macintosh Bible after asking for permission to publish just a few tips. I got invited back to the US in the middle of a concert of the Rock Bottom Remainders. I agreed to do the HTML book so they would let me do the Netscape books. Oh my. But I knew I wanted to do EPUB as soon as I saw the iPad :)


And everything is so interconnected, and gets more and more so. The peas climb up my volunteer sunflowers, and I go to Barcelona and learn how to publish books and then 20 years later publish books about Barcelona. I never know what's going to come out and how tightly to hold the rudder.


  1. Gracias, danke, merci. Luv the thought of these unintented as "volunteers." When we welcome and embrace teamwork, indeed, we can go far.
    (that is, I never am sure when to 'weed' either... )

  2. I agree with PilarW. Your concept of "volunteers" is beautiful....

    and I believed you when your described yourself as "computer book writer" :-)

    Keep on writing...

  3. And I love it when people I read pull metaphors out of their lives and present them in flourished bouquets - the world is a book; our circumstances more than anecdotal. Thank you.

  4. I concur, a nice view on what's a volunteer. I may have to re-post this on a few team sites, that's made of up of volunteers. It will be interesting to see what responses they have. :)

    Keep writing, and pulling weeds when time permits.

  5. what a lovely, lovely essay. thank you.

    I'm up in your neck of the woods (sorta) in Rockport Maine, teaching a week-long class in interactive eBooks. I sing your praises daily. :-D

    Keep writing more like this!

    1. Ah, thanks Anne Marie! You should see them now. The sun flowers are 10 feet tall and the weeds have taken over a bit. Will have to do an update. Thanks as always for your kind words.


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