Archive for Personal Writing
We Climb Together
On a good day-
On a good wall and a good face.
We feel at home.
We feel in place.
We clear our heads and we slow our pace.
We see our space-
So far outside of the ever-present rat race.
We make our moves-
Some bold and some true.
When we reach the top we look for you.
As we descend it’s hard to comprehend oh what that is we’ve just send.
In the moment nothing else matters-
But that next hold within these mysterious ladders.
After many hours spent with the people we desire-
We climb these walls and touch the skies together.
Late at night by the fire we look up at the stars-
And we wonder what if the whole world really knew what it meant….
To be a climber.
Last winter as I imagined my future garden I had 3 underling thoughts in mind for why I wanted to do it. As I mentioned in the previous post I needed to reconnect myself with some aspect of the natural world in a dedicated and regular way. I wanted to garden to challenge myself in being able to grow, manage, and take care of other living beings, aka – a whole lot of plants. Knowing that I would end up with way more vegetables than my family and I could eat I also wanted to build this garden with the idea of being able to give back to my friends with food. And I wanted to create a garden at the scale I did to test out in real life ideas I had in mind for some agricultural related businesses and plans I currently have in the works.
For more than any other reason the party portion of my gardening experiment was envisioned to function as a gift – to my friends.
Perhaps my feelings of disconnection from the environment were also closely related to my feeling of being somewhat disconnected from any sort of real community. I have a great family and wonderful friends, but like most Americans how rare is it that we all get together? And how much more rarer still do we consider ourselves a community and function with each others interests in mind?
Through my business and my personal life I am blessed to have close relationships with many insanely talented creative individuals. Maybe we all feel this way to a certain degree, but I consider my friends to be the most amazing people in the world. A part of my personal style has been and likely will always be to have many different types of friends that function in lots of different interpersonal circles. I love developing friendships with interesting, unique, motivated, talented, and rare individuals – who are often doing their own thing. And unfortunately doing your own thing often also means doing it alone.
A big underlying motivator for me in doing the work and spending the money required to throw a huge garden party was to bring together people who wouldn’t necessarily already know each other. I wanted to physically, ‘bring people together’ who I knew would appreciate each others unique talents and possibly form new relationships from this experience together as a unit.
As I have gotten older I have started to feel that the people who you surround yourself with often define who you are and will become as much or more than you do for yourself. For me, being surrounded by unique, motivated, and creative people has helped me become a better person for myself. My friends inspire me. And the best of them are truly there for me as guides, caretakers, kindred-spirits, fellow adventurers, and humble, honest, decent human beings.
In my attempt to reconnect with the natural world I also wanted to reconnect with the best of my own human spirit and find a way to express my deepest gratitude for those people in my own life for whom without their presence I would be a lesser person.
And for that I thank my friends.
This was the invite that was sent out for the party. I wrote the phrase, “A Garden’s Keeper Lives Life Deeper” to function both as an invite for the party and to be a submitted piece for my good friend Anne Ulku‘s two year long project, Six Word Story Every Day. The cards were letterpress printed by Kira Bavender’s letterpress company Cherry Pi.
Before the party my dad and I built a 75-foot long table made of old pallets and other recycled wood. The seats for our table were red buckets that were formerly used to store fast-food cooking oil (I used them to be slightly ironic). And the tops of the seats were large wooded planks cut from dead trees off of some our family’s hunting land. My sister decorated the table and other areas of the party like a pro using all recycled or found items. And even the dishes all came from a thrift store. I was determined to create a wonderful environment for the party without buying new things and adding any more waste into our already way too wasteful society. This party was about bringing people together to celebrate each other and eating natural home grown food – not about creating unnecessary waste in our already way to fragile natural world.
This was one of the 64 final pizzas getting loaded up with the good stuff. For the party my Dad, Step-Mom, Grandma, Grandpa, Sister, Cousins, Nick Patrek, and one of my sisters awesome co-workers – Riley, prepared homemade pizzas with ingredients mostly coming from the garden. Riley saved the day in a way none of the guests knew and is a Jedi pizza cook in his own right. My Dad bought a ton of pizza ovens at garage sales all summer to be prepared to cook for all our guests.
Here is some homemade cucumber salad from the garden.
I spent over $300.00 on the finest cheeses I could find from all over the world. It was wonderful.
I made sure to list everything that was in each pizza so everyone knew all the good stuff we had in there.
We all played a number of different yard games before dinner. Here’s Anne flashing a smile. Our group was definitely competitive. And I lost.
We had to make a special meat pizza for Cloud!
Jack kept his eyes wide-open on this crowd.
My sister collected flowers from other people’s gardens the day of the party and arranged them in Bell canning jars.
We used my dad’s collection of vintage minnow buckets as our Champagne buckets.
We also used vintage milk jugs for our water containers.
A few of my friends played some wonderful music after dinner around the fire.
I smoked a Cuban cigar after dinner by the fire to celebrate all the hard work I put into the creation of my garden, preparing the food, and bringing everyone together for the party. It also marked a completely different personal milestone for me as well, one of those things you keep to yourself, but that means a lot.
Here’s Jack making shadow monsters.
The raspberries in the Champagne all came from our garden as well.
In the end I hope everyone who attended this party had a good time. I know I did and look forward to our futures together.
All the photos taken in this post and for this party were shot by my friend David Mendolia.
Oh, how far I have traveled only to return to myself.
Last winter I started feeling a somewhat unidentifiable sense that something was wrong. Or at least that something was missing in my life. While digging deeper into that sensation of uneasiness I realized that I was feeling very disconnected from the natural world and had been feeling that way for a long time.
Growing up I was fortunate enough to have extended periods of time to live in and experience nature. It was a fundamental part of my upbringing and a core part of who I was — and who I am.
After internalizing this realization I decided I needed to do something about it. Staying in-line with my usual ‘go big or go home’ approach to life, business, and art – I immediately spent hundreds of dollars ordering nearly 200 hundred varieties of heirloom vegetable seeds. And of course before making my final order I obsessed over thousands of total varieties from many different seed vendors before settling on some of the rarest seeds I could find.
Once my order was complete I announced to my father that, “We were going to make a garden.” My dad, a retired teacher and former hippie, had managed to maintain a garden to one degree or another most of his adult life, but was somewhat skeptical of the scale of my vision. However, being retired he submitted to my wishes and we began to work.
After ordering the seeds we created a garden plan. We mapped out where everything would go in our garden on graph paper and determined which varieties to try narrowing it down to about 60 different types of plants for our final design. Our design greatly expanded my father’s original garden and would require some other major additions as well, including a large fence to keep the deer out.
With a plan in hand we waited. In the early spring we tried sprouting indoors all the seeds that needed a head start. And we failed. Our first round of seed sprouts didn’t make it due to lack of heat and light. With our first failure out of the way I bought some grow lights and other gear needed to make sure it didn’t happen again. The second round was off and running, but we were already behind on our plan.
Besides sprouting seeds we had to prep our soil. We put up a huge fence and used a tractor to till up the soil. We also added 6-tons of horse manure and lime to the soil to add nutrients. The soil looked good. The fence looked good. The seedlings were looking good. And we were back on track with our plan.
We planted in early May. It was a bit of a late start due in part to the weather. June was decent and July was extremely hot, humid, and wet. During July almost all the plants took off growing faster than I ever knew was possible. I felt like a master gardener on my first try.
Our crop wasn’t perfect though. The onions and peppers didn’t do very well. I think this was because it was too wet and too hot early on. We had some critters get in and do some solid damage — wood chucks, squirrels, and a family of raccoons. We managed to trap the critters and even figured out a trick to keep them out of the garden by placing a small radio in a bucket. Keeping the radio tuned to a talk station sounds like people constantly working or a kind of verbal scare crow. An old indian trick I assume.
I spent many hours weeding, watering, and watching my crops grow. It really was a wonderful experience.
We had a huge amount of produce and it was equally fun to learn new ways to cook the various plants we grew. It was also a fun way to spend time with my dad and step mom and I think they were just as impressed with our final results as I was.
Beyond that the process of learning, planning, starting, and growing a garden for the first time satisfied my fundamental need to reconnect to the natural world.
Looking back on my year and thinking about the time I spent in the garden I can honestly say it has to some degree changed me — and for the better. Through the process of proactively participating in the lifecycle of food I feel as though I have realigned my own life’s rhythms into a more healthy cycle as well.
Growing a garden for the first time was such an important experience for me that it literally changed the direction of my life in more than one way. So much so, that I will save the rest of this greater story for future posts.
In the meantime here are some photos from my first garden. Or my successful attempt to reconnect with nature in 2011:
The garden in June.
The garden just starting to really take off in July.
Fresh lettuce. Even better than I expected.
White Zucchini — grew like a weed!
My Dad’s favorite peas.
Beets — which I learned to love.
Little peppers trying to make it through the heat wave.
Chives have flowers – who knew?
Lady was always by my side making sure I was doing everything right. She managed to snag a few veggie treats during the season too.
“We’re going to do the impossible, we’re going to make it beautiful, and it’s got to stand up.” – Jack Dorsey, Twitter founder – Perhaps a new generational rally cry?
This year I turn 30 and so does the rest of the first wave of generation Y, Millennials, or the Echo Boom depending on which media buzz term you’d like to reference.
Over the years I’ve paid special attention to how my generation is perceived and presented by our collective elder media folk and speculate, as likely any new generation coming of age might think, that we might still be a bit misunderstood. Maybe I can shed some light on our collective mystery to all of you whose generations have come before ours.
The Mysterious Millennials
Although I can’t speak for my entire generation I feel confident I can speak for a whole lot of us. And I am aware of the fact that I speak from a uniquely American point of view knowing our country and culture certainly doesn’t represent the world in it’s entirety.
The Children of Diversity
I’m going to be bold enough to say we’re the first American generation of true tolerance. And we go even beyond tolerance into a realm of celebrating each others unique differences and individualities.
We are the generation that grew up with single parents. Or our parents were divorced. And if our parents weren’t divorced our best friend’s parents were. Our friends were adopted, refugees, immigrants, rich, poor, middle-class, Christian, Muslim, Jewish or more so than ever the religiously unaffiliated. And came in every color, shape, size, and level of nerdy-ness we could imagine. We didn’t mind because Sesame Street, our parents, and the Berenstain Bears taught us that our differences didn’t matter and that we were all the same kids on a playground trying to get picked for the right kickball team. We were the little people passing notes back and forth to each other in class worrying about who had a crush on who while our parents chased each other up the corporate ladder. We learned about the civil rights movement, about women fighting for their right to vote, about decades of wars that didn’t make sense when we already knew our differences couldn’t be something worth fighting over.
Boys & Girls with Too Many Toys & Too Much TV Time
Our generation devoured and still continues to devour media. We beat all our Nintendo games. We watched way too much TV. Sitting for hours on end watching our programs like: ALF, The Cosby Show, Doogie Howser, Double Dare, Family Ties, Growing Pains, Mr. Belvedere, The Muppets, Fraggle Rock, 3-2-1 Contact, Reading Rainbow, Roseanne, Saved By The Bell, This Old House, Wild America, Webster, and of course – The Wonder Years.
And for every hour we spent on the TV we put in our time in the movie department too. We watched some good ones like: Back To The Future, Batman, Big, Dead Poets Society, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Field Of Dreams, Flight Of The Navigator, The Karate Kid, License To Drive, The Never Ending Story, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Revenge of the Nerds, Risky Business, Short Circuit, Stand By Me, Top Gun, Weird Science, – and of course the first film I saw in a theater – Superman.
We saw the Space Shuttle Challenger explode on TV. We played flashlight tag, jumped on trampolines wearing Zubaz, and ate pop rocks. We had pink Skip-Its, Barbie Dolls, and G.I. Joes. The boys among us collected thousands of sports cards, which still fill albums that live within boxes deep inside our childhood bedroom closets. Our cats, dogs, gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, parrots, and goldfish were all subject to kiddy torture, dress-ups, and “science experiments.” We all lined city streets for 4th of July parades, fireworks, and ran around state fairs wearing hyper color shirts and pin-rolled up pants. We blared our tape decks rocking out in Starter Jackets and Nike’s while playing in the rain and eating Pizza Hut before TGIF.
The Olympics and Michael Jordan inspired us. We all knew not to take candy from a stranger. And we also knew we shouldn’t eat apples from strangers on Halloween because they may contain razor blades. Oh, and neon was awesome.
Everyone actually thought America’s Funniest Home Videos were funny. And we still occasionally catch a late night rerun after our now dwindling drunken escapades. College was a long time ago already. After all we’re 30 now and can’t party like we use to.
The Generation of Awareness
During the 1980’s and 1990’s we were kids. We had fun and we had our knocks too, but maybe one of the most important things that defined our collective youth was our awareness.
We knew what was going on. And not just in our own homes, but in our friend’s homes, and we knew what was happening around our country. We knew when there were droughts in farm fields in the South or massive snowstorms on the East Coast, or an earthquake in Candle Stick Park. We knew about Apartheid in South Africa and Dolphins being killed by tuna nets in the Pacific. We knew about global warming in elementary school. And that other kids in 3rd world countries didn’t get to live like we did. We saw the Berlin wall come down and knew what the Exxon Valdez did. And we cared about it. We internalized it and wanted to figure out our own ways to help. We knew that the world’s problems weren’t necessarily our own, but just by knowing about them meant we should at least try in some way to do something about them. We planted trees on Earth Day after pencil fighting sessions during Italian Dunker and tator-tot lunch hours. We drank cartons of chocolate milk that held the faces of missing children. And you all still can’t figure out the disconnect? Knowing too much when you’re too young – that is our collective story.
We Are The Realist-Idealists – The Realist Part
Our generation does not want what yours did. And we’re not even as close to naive as our grandparent’s generation was in believing there is such a thing as the “American Dream.” It’s a beautiful thought, but we already know that striving for a perfect life, in a perfect house, while trying to force your children to be perfect too only causes them to do drugs and listen to absorbent amounts of rock n roll all while believing getting high will somehow make their own problems go away because it’s ‘peace-love, and groovy man.’
We don’t trust big corporations. And the ‘great recession’ hammered the final nail into our parent’s collective career coffins. Turns out that system never really cared about you and we’re smart enough to realize it doesn’t give a shit about us either. It’s sad to see mothers who broke glass ceilings into rooms full of already broken mirrors. It’s kill or be killed in the corporate world and we’ll quit your shit job for a $1,000 raise somewhere else without a 2-week notice (and we’ll take the fucking stapler with us and sell that shit on Ebay). There is no such thing as corporate loyalty anymore and that door swings both ways. Look that up in your urban rap dictionary, #beyatches. All you 40-year-old middle managers need to stop crying about how Millennials don’t care or know about the value of hard work. Most of us don’t try to hide from the truth as much as you do. In the corporate world we’re all whores to overpaid board of directors with golden parachutes so stop acting like you can’t see the elephant in the room. If you always wanted to be an artist you should have went for it instead of taking out your weak level of authority on me. We don’t want the same thing as your generation did for our work-lives and we’re not going to play the same game either. There are some of us who like our corporate jobs, but that’s only because we like our co-workers. Don’t fool yourself into thinking anyone cares about Excel, Powerpoint, or Salesforce.
We definitely don’t trust banks and our governmental leaders publicly piss on each other waiting for their turn to pass the blame for whatever the current political flair up might be so they can stay in office long enough to keep the killer health benefits and the 80-G’s a year to eat in the private dining clubs on the Hill while screwing an intern or the friendly gay down the street. I’m sure in their hearts they care about our country, but not anymore than they care about their own trust funds.
Don’t even get me started on advertising. Nice try, but we’re not in your demographic anymore. Funny is still funny, but I ain’t buying your mini-van because it’s a swagger wagon. All you account planners out there might as well label us as, the “untouchable” generation.
We are realists that can spot a lie a thousand miles away, but we are not jaded even when the lies are only coming from a foot away. We know what’s going on and we’re not happy about it. You didn’t know we were going to end up here either. But, you’re old now and most of you have given up. You’re hoping the stock market doesn’t totally collapse once the world’s oil runs out or your social security check dries up before you’re dead. You worked for something right? We get it. Remember we’re the generation that knows what is really going on. We see what you were trying to do and failed, but we still really appreciate that you read us books at night when we were kids and paid for all our years on sports teams and music lessons.
The world is fucked up and life is not fair. It always has been and always will be. But the difference is that this time it might be for real. Our environment is in such a bad place everything could collapse and not just your bank account, but our whole ability as a species to live. I have personally stayed up entire nights thinking about who I’d have to kill just to stay alive in a world that can no longer support most forms of life. That’s heavy shit to deal with when you’re also still (borderline) trying to please your parents, grandparents, girlfriend, boss, and friends, while also still trying to appear to be a somewhat normal functioning member of this ‘great’ nation of ours. And you’ve got 5 blogs and 6 Twitter accounts to update daily with a dog to walk every fucking night too. Oh, and you still need to figure out what non-GMO foods you can eat or decide which one of the 17,000 different kinds of toothpaste to buy. Really? How can there be so many kinds of…. EVERYTHING. How did we get here?
I dare say our American Y-generation has acquired a type of pressure never before experienced in our species. We are no longer just responsible for ourselves, our own families, our own towns, states, or even the whole country. But, we are responsible for the entire global industrial revolution’s fuck-ups, for our already aging parents, and for that tiny space inside all our brains for our now still imaginary children’s children. The greater our privilege was growing up the greater our responsibility is now and as American youth it would be hard to argue we didn’t all grow up privileged in most ways that count. I can’t be the only person of my generation who has actually shed a tear imagining the world my own grandchildren could inherit.
I know you’re thinking, “Dang, these kids are a bummer and cold.” Nope. Not cold or jaded – we’re just real and we know what is going on. Life’s a bitch and we’re not afraid to call it as we see it. Some of us still don’t speak out our truths, but we certainly know and think about them.
We Are The Realist-Idealists – The Idealist Part
Now for the rainbows and kittens. Oh, man, for all the coldness and cynicism you might detect from myself and my fellow echo boomers we’re all still the children of hippies and the grandchildren of the generation of real values. We got heart for miles. I think if we all thought we could make a decent living at it we’d all work for non-profits. Most of my closest friends are already nurses, therapists, teachers, firemen, artists, lawyers (the good kind), organic farmers, or baristas helping drown out our collective sorrows.
You’d be hard pressed to find a single young American person today who doesn’t in some way want to try and help make the world a better place.
Some of us haven’t yet found our own way to make an impact, but we’re trying. And we’re trying to do it at the same time that we’re trying to make a life for ourselves too. Finding the time to volunteer for a good cause or dedicating ones life to a peaceful mission shouldn’t need to feel like such a struggle, but we all know how hard it is out there right now to just get by. Yet, even in the downturn the beat goes on and positivism exudes from my people.
Everywhere I look and turn my fellow youth are making it happen in the most honorable way. We are the generation of genuine idealism. We know we can make a difference because we already are.
We can inspire you to rejoin the cause.
Maybe because our generation grew up with a bit of over-awareness we also gained a little extra wisdom too. When you grow up learning about and understanding pain and suffering in places a million miles from your own playground you know from a very young age how we’re all really connected in the end. There is no such thing as ‘us’ and ‘them’ we’re all just ‘us’. And it’s not even just ‘us’… it’s endangered animals, tropical rain forests, ocean waves, and tiny bits of energy swirling around the universe from atom to atom into infinity. There is awe behind it all and we are moving it forward from within it.
A modern gentleman knows that conversations about money, politics, and religion are all topics best left for private affairs and I know my generation is as much of a mixed bag when it comes to any side of those coins as any other generation before ours. However, the wisdom I’m referring to taps into something that transcends dinner party banter.
Perhaps it is my own uber-idealism at play here but I truly believe the youth of the world today will help get us all back home. And not back to the ‘American Dream’, but just back to the dream of being able to live a happy life while doing right by other people and the Earth along the way. Right now – as in right now – there are young people leading actual revolutions against decades of tierney in countries around the world. The revolution of our American youth might not be as visible, but it is happening.
Young people are moving away from corporate jobs and starting their own small businesses. We are buying less stuff and interested in living more simply. We are paying down our debts. We are learning where our food comes from and what the real cost of industrialized farming is. We are seeing ourselves in relation to our impact on the Earth and where our energy comes from. We ride bikes. We are spending our money more wisely and looking for quality over quantity. We are designing better more eco-friendly products and questioning what services we really need and why. After seeing a lot of our buddies, older brothers, and sisters lose their houses in foreclosure we’re not about to make that same mistake. We’re waiting to get married because we’re the generation of divorce and know what that fallout means.
Everyday some portion of our individual energy goes towards thinking about and actually doing something better. Making things better is a process and takes time. We’re trying to be patient. Even if you can’t see it yet I want you to know that my generation is solving real and serious problems everyday.
Basically, we fucking rule and we’ve got so much soul you’d cry your eyes out if you only knew how much we care. But, hey, we’re not trying to win medals over here, most of us are humble kids even though we post a lot of random self-promoting shit on our Facebook pages. We’ve all got at least one special someone to try and impress, and just because we care doesn’t mean we need to be boring.
How could I make broad and general sweeping statements about an entire generation of people without including a cornerstone of human existence? Oh, snap. It’s time for the millennial love tutorial.
Who really knows? Statistically we’re more single players than not. Yeah, we’ve hooked up. Yeah, we’ve been in a love once, twice, third times a charm. We’ve been cheated on. We’ve tried not to cheat. We’re looking for the sparks, the stability, the chaos, and the moments of silence and understanding. We carry all our fears and past experiences with us. We are just as vulnerable as any other person at any other time that has come before us. And we are either looking for, open to, hiding from, scared of, not ready yet, fooling ourselves, too selfish, or just content enough to know what happens next. Life isn’t static and neither are we. Marriage is amazing and awesome, except when it isn’t. Being single is awesome and amazing, except when it isn’t. Our friends and family help guide our thoughts in life and love and our hearts tell the truth if we choose to listen.
Maybe some things are a matter of destiny that someone like me shouldn’t be commenting on; no matter how hard I try I will never fully understand love, because matters of the heart aren’t things that are designed to be understood from a place that can be written.
I can say this from a completely personal place – my grandparents, both the living and the dead, inspire me in ways I’m not sure I fully understand. Their commitment to each other through 50 years, 60 years, 65 years and on, go beyond my imagination. Living my own life to the age of 65 will be a miracle – having someone else there with me and me with them that long seems as abstract as space travel and being described colors I’ve yet seen. That kind of connection, and maybe even more that kind of commitment, hits me so hard it feels like I’ve gotten the wind knocked out of me.
Yet, despite years of turmoil growing up with divorced parents I know it was all for the best – for all of us. I know my life is better because my parents got divorced and that we lived through that reality together.
In all my relationships and interactions in matters of the heart I carry with me this duality from my lineage.
I also know those moments of the unimaginable joy in being alone – totally un-tethered – completely free in the moment you feel your own heart beat while on a morning run in time with its rhythm looking to the sky knowing with certainty that that moment was created for you. Absolutely nothing can touch a moment of singular clarity. Our souls may dance in time with others, yet they are ours alone.
We are the generation of future hermits and cat ladies. We are the generation of future divorces and long storms before long-term happy endings. We are the generation of the future Happy Days re-runs. We are the generation of the soul-mated and the broken hearted. We harmonize like crickets and fireflies in deep dawn.
My generation, well, lets just say we’re complex – and it’s as simple as that.
Mysterious Millennials now and forever — special people, for a special place and time, with a special kind of love for each other and for you.
This Is Our Time
This year, in my New Year’s letter I wrote:
“For all the world’s daily dangers or despairs and for all our differences and shimmering individualities I take solace in our commonalities and shared aspirations.
All living beings possess a basic shared desire to love and be loved, to be healthy and bring health to others, to be happy and inspire happiness, to feel success over pain and suffering, to conquer fears, and to hopefully pass with wisdom, integrity, and perhaps legacy. We all wish to live well.”
In the end, maybe the only thing you really need to know about our generation is that we’re trying really hard to do the best we can with what we’ve got. We are keeping it real and we will never say die on our collective dream to live well while doing right by ourselves and each other along the way.
Some of my fellow Gen.-Y’ers might disagree with me on my thoughts here, but then again they probably weren’t really into the Goonies that much either – just saying.
(If you like my thoughts here please share them. And if you’d like to share your thoughts with me on what I’ve written feel free to reach out to me via Facebook or Twitter or send me an e-mail at: revolution(at)clarkpatrick.com)