Native Son: Waves

All photos by Steven Chamblee.

Turning 60 on Saturday. Left my job. POD is packed. Cleaning up and selling the house. Closing on new house September 27. The move awaits like Kilimanjaro. New job starts October 2. I haven’t slept more than 4 hours in a month…and like frosting on the cake, my cell phone went AWOL for a few days.

Great adventures are sometimes stressful.

The garden-hopping vacation planned since March officially started yesterday at Gate D-22, when a friend of mine quoted her grandfather…”Whistling girls and crowing hens never did come to any good end.” Then she proceeded to whistle the theme song to The Andy Griffith Show.

Twelve hours later, I’m solo-soaking in the hot tub outside the quasi-palatial house we rented in Pennsylvania’s Brandywine Valley, watching bald-faced hornets bounce off the outside of the house under the outside light. Who knew giant wasps were active at night? Huge, thick-bodied, and tenacious, they look like crazed, zombie hummingbirds hell-bent on killing something…anything. A few even crash-landed into the hot tub. C’mon, guys, really? The entire Earth to terrorize, and you gotta pick me? Sometimes a hot tub soak can be stressful.

Continued Below

As I sit here alone in the wee hours—with 3.75 hours sleep in me—my brain conjures up my memories of the beach at Cancun, and makes the connection between that beach and life itself. You can choose to sit on the beach and watch the waves, all safe and secure and dry. That’s okay…almost everyone does that down there. Or, you can choose to go in the water. The water is an exhilarating experience. Bracing. Makes you feel alive. This is the good stuff. Yep, there’s waves out here, and they never stop. At times they are little more than big ripples; other times they are substantial…but they can never be ignored. You simply cannot turn your back on the ocean without consequences, so it’s best to face it. Same with life. If you want the exhilaration, there’s going to be some waves.

My brain reminds me of a great saying that I think I coined myself, “If you’re going to make a splash, there’s going to be some waves.” Life’s great moments require the adaptability to take whatever the waves dish out. There’s gonna be storms, for sure. And there will be doldrums, which, to me, are sometimes even worse, but you always have to keep an eye out for the waves.

My wife just looked over my shoulder and said, “I thought this was supposed to be about gardening…”


To make you and Neil happy, here’s some snaps from Chanticleer in Wayne, Pennsylvania.

Gorgeous plant displays are everywhere!
Twin columns of Cissus discolor adorn the front of the mansion.
Flowers and foliage fill a water urn.
Hydrangeas in full bloom in full sun.
Lush plantings are found along many pathways.
This beautiful stairway wall is planted differently every year.
A massive Scarlet Oak dominates a vista.
Deep perennial beds.
The pattern of the raked gravel changes daily.
Beautiful, one-of-a-kind chairs are one of the hallmarks of Chanticleer.
Stair rail details at Chanticleer.
A little eucalyptus tree bathes in the sunshine.
Smallest green roof I’ve ever seen!
Almost miraculously, a Monarch chrysalis hangs like an earring from a small garden statue.

I need a road trip! Let me know if you’d like me to come and speak to your group sometime. I’m low maintenance, flexible, and you know I like to go just about anywhere. No city too big; no town to small. Just send me an e-mail at and we’ll work something out.

Posted by Steven Chamblee
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