Gardening Magazine

Keeping It Real

By John Markowski @jmarkowski0

“I just want to let you know that I drool quite a bit when I sleep.”
That statement was uttered by yours truly back in October of 1990. It was one of the first sentences I directed towards a beautiful young lady I had just met while a freshman at Trenton State College in bucolic Ewing, New Jersey. That woman just happened to become my wife six years later.
Now before you blast me for one of the worst pick-up lines in the history of courtship, just know that I may have been slightly inebriated when I said it, and I may or may not have been hanging upside down on a bicycle rack when those words spilled out of my mouth. It is all a little blurry in the memory bank. And yes, it was a little forward of me but it felt like an important piece of information to share with the future Mrs. Markowski. She had to know what she was getting into from the get-go.   
The truth is, I have a knack for not only giving up too much information about myself, but also taking self- deprecation a bit too far. I’ve always been that way and it hasn’t slowed down as I march through adulthood. I've never stopped to ponder why I am that way or even worried about how people perceive me because of it. I guess if I had to sit in the psychiatrist's chair and analyze it, I could come up with some reasons for it.    
It could be a defense mechanism where I beat you to the punch before you can point out a deficiency of mine. For example, at family get-togethers, I’ll immediately say something like “How do you like this pathetic attempt at a beard?” (which by the way, is completely accurate) before someone can give me that look that says “What a pathetic beard”. It is me proving to you that I am completely self-aware.
It could also be a means to avoid any nonsensical small talk and get right to “keeping it real”. I spend most of my time at my “day job” letting people know that everything is under control and that there are no “issues”, only “opportunities”. There is no room for admissions of failure or talking about your weaknesses. But once I get outside of that environment, it feels refreshing to tell it like it is or to not be afraid of how you will be perceived if you openly admit to not being so in control. Discussions of flaws can feel liberating as hell.
Or maybe, self-deprecation is simply “funny” and I love nothing more than to make people laugh. The best stand-up comedy comes from a place of brutal honesty where one can easily relate to the topic at hand. I have been listening to Howard Stern on the radio for more than two decades now and the appeal has always been his ability to be completely open with the listener. You may think he is crude and disgusting, but for me it goes beyond that. He openly admits to being unattractive and awkward looking and who can’t relate to that type of neurosis in some way? The comedy here is almost a sense of relief as it makes it OK to admit to our own faults and shortcomings.
Where is this type of discussion going on a gardening blog you ask? Am I announcing a career change to "garden stand-up comedy"? No ... but that could be a unique and cool direction to go in. At a minimum, I bet it is an angle no one has attempted before. I'll give it a try:
Q. Why did the gardener cross the road?
A. To pick up a stray apple peel for the compost bin. Not funny.
A. To take a picture of a mysterious blooming flower in a ditch. Never mind. A lot of work to be done here.
The reason for today's pontification is I am looking to fully explore the use of video in and about my garden. In doing so, I realize I am opening myself up to exposing some serious flaws. With photography, it is easy to crop out the bad parts and focus on the good parts. With video, it will be a much larger and comprehensive view of the garden and there is no way to shield readers/viewers from the truth.
But that is good.
There are so many beautiful gardens to visit in person and even more to ogle at in books, magazines or on-line. I love and drool (here we go again) over them like the next guy, but I realize I will never reach that level with my garden. Instead, I am looking to portray a more realistic version of how our gardens actually appear and perform. There will be highs and some sweet looking plant combinations, but there will be just as many lows and “what was he thinking?” moments. I hope to capture both of those with these upcoming videos.
So attached below is video #1. It is short, but it is a start.
You can see what the deer did to one of my foundation plantings this past winter. I felt so vulnerable as I recorded it (unlike most, I use a ton of perennials in my foundation plantings so it looks quite bare right now) but I am determined to push on.
You will see/hear plenty of self-deprecation and honest thoughts and just know I am more aware than you are of what doesn’t look so great.
That would be my gardening defense mechanism in full affect.

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