Saturday, August 3, 2013

We are not alone

Gallant soldiers (Galinsoga parviflora) and pigweed (Amaranthus hybridus) on the roof farm, last night

So we're going through a rather bumpy time, right now. We do not know yet whether we will move or stay - and apartments typically only appear on the market a month in advance (our lease ends after October). So a lot is up in the air - and then yesterday this letter arrived in my Facebook Inbox. It helped me put some things into perspective. It is reprinted with kind permission of its author, Melissa Estrella Ivey. Thank you, Melissa.

Dear Marie

My name is Melissa, and I would like to tell you how beautiful and inspiring your blog is. I’m sure you heard this before. But, your blog actually helped me when I was going through a somewhat rough time.

Back in May, my husband and I had finally found what we thought was our dream home. After months of searching, I could finally dream of having a garden with fruit trees, flowers, herbs…a place for our puppy to run, for us to have romantic meals under the stars. We live in a townhouse, and I love gardening. It always felt that I was very limited with the amount of plants I could have, especially because it was hard to bring them all inside during winter time. Our small deck is ok for the 2 of us. There is a stone wall right there, obstructing any view we could ever wished for. And the noisy air conditioner, right next to the deck, always in the middle of our conversations. So, yeah, we were as excited as we could be with the idea of having a view of a beautiful nature reserve.

I was browsing garden ideas on Pinterest, when a picture led me to your blog. I could not believe how beautiful your terrace was. And I wished I had those ideas before, so my deck could look as lovely as your terrace. A few days later, we got the news that we had not been approved for the loan. Our hearts stopped beating for a second, and it felt like we could cry, right there. We had had 30 days of complete madness, trying to get all paperwork done, and faxing, and re-faxing, and writing letters to the bank, and visiting our soon-to-be-home, to find out, on day 31, that we could not finance it. I know it sounds dramatic, but it took us a couple of days to recover.

Then, I went back to your blog. I started reading it, the older posts, the ones about plants, about picnics, cocktails, I could not get enough of it. On my way to work one morning, I stopped at a nursery, and walked amongst the plants, looking for trees, herbs, vegetables, that would survive living in pots, and some that would live through the winter. I did that every day for days.

Reading your blog gave me such strength that I didn’t know I had. I planted herbs, flowers, a fig tree, lots of rosemary and basil. My deck is still very noisy, but looking gorgeous with my plants in it! We have these stairs in the front of the house that I made sure to fill with plants as well. You even inspired me to cook (I cannot wait to put my hands in your book- already pre-ordered!).

Thank you for being this incredible person through a beautiful blog. Your words and pictures were an emotional support when I most needed. And today, they are part of my daily routine; it’s like visiting a good friend!

Melissa

40 comments:

  1. I have the same feelings about this blog - as returning to a good friend. It helps me to create my balcony, which is smaller than Marie's.
    We live in Germany, in a town with one of the most expensive prices on appartments/houses. I don't belive we will be able to get a place big enaugh to fulfill my dreams since it is really expensive here. So I dream kinda through this blog. It helps.

    I did made gin with currants, red and black. So excited how it will turn out.

    Wishing you all the best

    Jurate

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    1. Hi Jurate - I do like the idea of an international making of red- and black currant gin. Let me know how it turns out.

      And thank you x

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  2. That is one fine letter, especially in these days when we've seemed to lose the art. It's a keeper.

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    1. It's a letter that reminds me to write letters.

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  3. Marie,
    I agree with Melissa and all of those above. Your blog has taken a darker tone as late but that is understandable.
    I, too, have taken solace in your blog this past year with your, perhaps unintentional, emphasis in enjoying the moment whether it be looking at a beautiful bloom (or a cat) or eating a tasty and picturesque meal. I've been out of work and worrying about the future. When I visit your blog I remember to savor the moment.

    Thank you,
    Deirdre

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    1. Yeah - I'm sorry about the morbid introspection, here. It gets old, fast. The truth is, much of my inner life is quite dark. EEK, I said it. The moment and its potential beauty are my antidote to the black dogs that nip at all our heels.

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  4. You touch many people. I am glad to be one of them.
    Lorie

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  5. Wonderful letter. You touch a lot of people. I think everyone reading your blog thinks of you as a friend. And as friend, I wish you all the best whatever your decision is. Only wish I could help you somehow! But I am far away.

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    1. Thank you, Jack. I am sorry that I have dipped into self pity. It's unattractive. If we wanted it, help is there for the asking. The bigger, life questions, of What Now? loom, and we have to answer those ourselves. I knew they were coming, they've just arrived a bit earlier than expected. We do have so much to be grateful for.

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  6. Brings tears to my eyes. A beautiful letter.

    Our daughter, husband and toddler have been house shopping for 7 months now and met with no success. Unfortunately the apartment where they live has NO space for gardening. But they live near a beautiful park. Yet the apartment is way too crowded for three and they so want a yard for the little one.

    Each place is different, comes with its own advantages and disadvantages. Nowhere encompasses everything one would want in a home. You make the very best of where you are now, and if you decide to move, you will do so in a different way.

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    1. You are right. Can't have everything. Goodness knows, where we are isn't perfect. It's just...home.

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  7. My husband and I were in a similar place in 1999, only we had no garden, and really wanted one. It was hard for me to leave Brooklyn, but we found a little house in the Hudson Valley, and have enjoyed working together in the garden we created. I love your blog, and look forward to your book.

    Many thanks!

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  8. That should make a girl feel pretty good about her work.

    Surely you know there are lots of us who love your blog, seek your gardening advice, snap up your recipes, and know that you and your guys will be fine in a few months - altho we also share your frustration. Friends, sister, and acolytes!

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    1. I do know, webb - and your presence has always been so kind.

      I will fasten my seatbelt and get a grip.

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  9. Such a wonderful letter - and the comments have been touching, too. Those of us who stop by to visit Marie, Vince and Estorbo on a regular basis know that we will find a welcoming oasis on each of their blogs. You never know what they will be writing about, but you do know it'll be worth reading and thinking about. Vince will point out that the natural world is there around us, if we will but seek it out and experience it. Marie will encourage us to find the beauty and interestingness of the things that are around us..to picnic, and to love plants.. to savor it all, and take comfort in that. And Estorbo will show us that you can find cattle up on the roof - if you think small. As Jack said
    "I wish I could help, but I am so far away." I wish you had one of those Amazon portals and got some share of our purchases. T

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    1. ...btw - Estorbo has branched out and is farming micro cattle. His regular herds seem to have moved on.

      Global warming.

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    2. Micro cattle - hmm.. could it be that Estobo has a herd of Aphids? T

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    3. ...(hushed voice)...a n t s

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  10. Such a beautiful letter. Your blog, no matter what the subject is at any point, has helped inspired me to resume gardening and try to live a simple, but more beautiful life.

    I have put much off for a long time to care for my ailing mother. Your blog helped keep me going, planning a different future. My mother passed away on the first of August, 16 days shy of her 99th birthday. She was an avid gardener and would be pleased that I can now carry on that tradition.

    Your deep love of Estorbo also pleases me. I lost Kiki, a pequeña blag cad from Oregon who also had typhoid. She was thrilled to receive a thank you card from you and Estorbo! Sadly, she passed away on July 3rd from heart failure. I'm fortunate to still have a big, blag, Dominican cad in my life through you.

    Thank you.

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    1. Oh, Teasel - I am very sorry.

      The cad just blinked at me once, slowly. A message for Kiki.

      x

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  11. Beautiful and much deserved letter. This blog as well as the continuing saga of Don Estorbo have helped keep me going through an extremely difficult year. Many thanks for sharing all the beauty, humor and good food.

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    1. I am sorry about your year, CC...

      Don Estorbo is eating his pellets and wondering what all the fuss is about. His bowl is full.

      He has forgotten the gerbils.

      May all our gerbils soon be behind us.

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  12. Marie, I was pondering your difficulties as I garden today. I was thinking what a pain in the butt moving a garden can be, just how much work would be entailed in moving a rooftop garden. Cleaning my closets, overdue; how hard it is to pack it up. I'm not sure what Vince does to earn a living, but with your beautiful sense of design, perhaps this is the time to consider moving farther afield from Red Hook, Brooklyn, and NYC. Your writing and blogging can happen anywhere. Moving is terribly unsettling, but it is both an ending and a beginning. Perhaps concentrating on a beginning would be more fruitful.

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  13. What an affirming letter! The 66 Square Feet blog was unknown to me until just a few short months ago, at a time when I was distracted by less pleasant events and needed a reminder that life could be lived with passion through the simple things... Thank you for the inspiration!

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  14. I echo what everyone above has written. I come to your blog for the fresh garden feel and sincere voice, Vince's for the awesome pictures and Estrobo's...well because he's Estrobo. I've had a tough few years...I worked for one company for 25 year and after being laid off worked for another company for a year before it was bought out and now I've been out of work for 6 months with no unemployment...it is scary! You and your family have a lot of talent and great voices...you can do it!

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    1. Hi Kath - Hearing other peoples' stories is a wake up call - a sense of perspective. We wish you strength. Thank you x

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  15. I am with all the commenters. Ever since I discovered your blog through the NY Times article on small-city gardens, you and your blog have reminded me of the beauties and pleasures that can be had amongst the dark things in life. You are clearly a resourceful woman with many talents. Even though I of course don't know (beyond the obvious) the precise nature of the predicament that you are facing, I know you and Vince will find a way to get through it and emerge unscathed.

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  16. You never know whose life you will touch with your writing and sharing of your life. Whatever your decision, you will create something beautiful because that is what you do.

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    1. I agree Denise. How lovely to see one person's passion touch so many's lives. Marie - whatever happens, you'll be OK. I just survived giving up my home after 20 years and my beloved garden of 3000 sq m of which I knew each flower, shrub, plant and bulb by name - because I planted each one and couldn't wait each year for each one to reward me with flowers, shade and joy. 'We' are tougher than we realise - I have taken cuttings from my dear old garden and have planted them into a postage stamp of a garden where we are renting for a while. Byt vas meisie!

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  17. So many blogs are all about dappled light streaming through lace curtains. Yuck. That's what gets old, fast. I like dark and morbid introspection. Do the black dogs just nip? Will they bite? How do you keep them at bay? That's what inspires me and I bet a lot of your readers.

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    1. ...those dogs are blood suckers.

      No, not really. More furtive and shadowy, then hard to avoid. Flowers are good for keeping them at a distance. Also, mixed drinks.

      And they hate sunsets.

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  18. I know I'm joining this party late. Not only the time difference, but my habitual daily get-up-feed-the-hungry-fourfooteds-grab-a-cup-of-coffe-visit-66SF routine has been nudged out of kilter this last week by my Mum's sudden and hurtling out of control slide into the latter stages of Alzheimer's, forcing us to find a suitable care home FAST - we weren't ready and it's dizzying - and today as I catch up with posts I've missed, I find this one. I agree with David - I don't want sugary 'look how perfect my house is' nonsense. Yuck indeed. I can't find any other way to say what the other guys have said already. Suffice to say, Marie, your words, pictures, thoughts, opinions, recipes, insight, humour and, if I may be so bold, friendship, keep us all coming back for more.
    I seek solace here, and find it. Thank you.
    Be happy, listen to your hearts x

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  19. I like that you find beauty in things - situations, plants, travel, conversations, glass debris at low tide. I like and respect that you are passionate about how things SHOULD be - that you argue with people in random stores in random South African towns about how degrading they are when they speak of others - about how easy it should be to throw your own trash in a trash can regardless of why you're in the park at night and that you believe it enough to work to make things better. I respect that you see the faces of people under bridges when so many of us purposely don't look for fear of being engaged. I like that you routinely question "what is a garden?" and push my boundaries with all of these things. I find it uplifting that you live in what can be a terrible, polluted, noisy, expensive, awful city, but rather than focus on those things, you focus on the sunsets, on the greenspaces used and unused, on wild food, on the beauty of a meal for its own sake. You see the good and the beautiful and that is inspiring. And of course you can write your ass off and that makes us all come back again and again. I stumble across other blogs regularly that seem worth a look, but they always fall short of your project. You are exceptional and (like everyone else) I feel enormously grateful that you decide to share all of that with all of us when it would be so easy for you to keep all of the wonderous things you see all to yourself. Thank you, sincerely, for doing what you do. You make things better.

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