When The Fog Rolls In — And Out

Foggy Night

There’s no other way to describe my brain during these frigid January days than this photo of a foggy, foggy night.  I admit when I first saw the lights beaming through the misty mid-winter air, I thought of a scene from “The X-Files” — you know, an alien spacecraft had landed just on the other side of the trees behind my house.

But the more I stared at the photo, the more I thought about the tangled thoughts and clouded emotions and glimmers of light in my head.  There’s a lot happening up there, and very often it’s difficult to make sense or to accept what it all is.

A few posts ago, I mentioned that a recent stress test revealed another blockage in one of my coronary arteries — a blockage that is aggravated by stress and cold.  When we live in a world where words like “polar vortex” and “bombogenesis” are replacing “snow,” cold becomes an even greater concern.


Winter of my discontent.

In fact, life is starting to sound more and more like the Jake Gyllenhaal sci-fi film The Day After Tomorrow.  Just as the population in the movie migrated south for warmth, I must do the same thing.  After numerous conversations with my doctors, I’ve made a decision to take some time away from work and winter.




I’ve spent the past few weeks informing colleagues and students about my January 30th departure.  It’s been a month of tying up loose ends, managing my own sadness about leaving, and embracing the well wishes and goodbyes.  The overall sentiment has been: “It’s good that you’re taking care of yourself, but what will we do without you?”  To which I say to myself, “What will I do without them?”

And that question resonates with me as I look out from the window on this below-zero day, at a garden that is smothered beneath a blanket of white.  “What will I do without the garden?”

Many of my friends and colleagues have told me they’re jealous that I’ll be going to Florida to manage my most recent health issue.  They ask me, “How excited are you?  Are you counting down the days?”

No, I am not.

While I’m relieved and happy to be escaping snow and cold and talk of deep-freezes, look at what I’m leaving behind.  Family.  Friends.  And a garden that I have tended and celebrated and documented as cyclically as the seasons.

Seed Starting 6


My all-time favorite crocus: Pickwick.




Autumn Leaves


How can I be a garden blogger without a garden?  Right now, I’m staring at a greenhouse that is dark and dormant and cold.  I should be starting seeds out there.  In a few weeks, I should be cleaning out beds, looking for the first flushes of green, sharing photos, and writing posts.

Instead, I will be in a warmer climate in a yard that has no garden — just a lawn and palm trees.

"Why don't you come up and see me?"






What do I even know about gardening in this sub-tropical zone?  What’s different about south Florida gardening as compared to New York gardening?  Will I even have the stamina to create a garden?  How much will I need to depend on Joe for the heavy stuff?  What of the New York garden?  What’s happening to it in my absence?  What am I missing?  What will I return to in late spring?

At about this point, I can hear a foghorn echoing in my head.  For this reason, I’ve made another difficult decision — to take a very brief hiatus from posting as regularly as I have, to wait for those beams of light to be strong enough to burn through the fog, to get to Florida and figure out how a garden blogger blogs without a garden.

And when all that happens, you will be the first to know — because inspiration often comes from the most unlikely of seeds.

Coconut Sprout

Coconut sprouting.

88 thoughts on “When The Fog Rolls In — And Out

  1. My dear friend, my heart is filled with the sadness I can feel in your post, and, because I am all too familiar with such choices, if I could, I would drive out there just to give you a hug right now. Go be as healthy as you can be and the rest will begin to fall into place once again. We will be with you in spirit and here when you return! Sending love & healthy hugs…

    • Hi Jo. Thanks for the hug! 🙂 There is some sadness and some excitement and some nervousness. I know that this blog hiatus is temporary – it’s just a matter of figuring out what to post when I’m not in my own garden. Field trips? Wish lists? Interviews? It’s less of a detour and more of a rewrite. 🙂 Be well and I truly appreciate your kind words.

  2. I’ll miss your musings, however they come. I feel like I can read your aching in your words and hope that whatever darkness and loss you’re stumbling through, that the warm sunshine finds a way to burn through the fog bit by bit and helps heal your pain, in more ways than one.

    • Hey Plum Dirt. I think this is one of those moments when it’s good to go one day at a time. There will be posts — I’m just not sure when. It will probably be when I see my first palm frond. 🙂 Thanks for your kind words and support.

  3. Much love, Kevin! You will garden inside your head for a while. That’s what I do all winter. I make plans in my mind and watch the imaginary flowers and veggies grow. This morning, I planted carrot seeds in my head all in a neat little row. They looked nice next to the asparagus. The soil there is just as fertile; as a writer, you already know this. Best to you and Joe.

    • Hi Lori. Love this idea! 🙂 I’m looking at this time as a learning experience, one that will be filled with imagination. Thanks for the idea — and I’ll be back for your imaginary harvest. 🙂

  4. I must admit, this made me shed yet another tear. Not simply because I’ll miss you but also because of the sadness I can hear coming through your words. However, I also know that you will find a way to nurture your love of gardening in paradise. You can take the gardener out of zone 7, but you can’t take the green out of his thumb!

    • Hi Nil. Thank you, my friend. 🙂 I am committed to this being a pause — nothing permanent. I just need to think and focus, and the green will return. 🙂

  5. Hi Kevin,

    It’s been a while since I stopped by to visit your blog. This post showed up in my reader, however other past posts have not. Sometimes I find WP very frustrating that way.

    Anyhoo, I had no idea about what has been going on with you healthwise and am very sorry to hear this. 😦

    I have lived through 3 bouts of cancer and have just celebrated my 3 year vegan anniversary so if there is anything I can do on a health-front, please do not hesitate to email me. Health is a priority. After my 3rd bout with cancer, that became my mantra: my health first, everything else last. You have to listen to your body and figure out how to do things differently, like I did, but you can do it and you will do it. Gardening is in your bones. You will make this happen Kevin, I know you will.

    I’m here if you need a virtual friend.


    • SUSAN!! Thank you for this. I’ve always said that as long as you have health, you have everything. It’s just time for me to focus on it — the gardening will come soon enough. I promise. 🙂 The hardest part is figuring out the blogging stuff while not actively gardening. That can be a bit of a challenge for a blog devoted to gardening. Just need time to figure it all out. Be well and ((hugs)) right back!

  6. Oh, Kevin – so sorry to hear about your heartaches! I will miss your posts sorely, but I hope you will re-discover gardening in FL, or perhaps some new passion. I have lived in Florida, and the basic rule is that you can plant all those beautiful houseplants outside! Please give yourself a kick in the head and look forward to what most certainly is a new door opening. For out of every lost opportunity comes an equal or better opportunity! Florida is very lucky to have you! And if you decide to blog in Florida about anything, we’ll all still be here! Big Hugs!

    • Hi Kathy. Believe me, posts will return — I just have to figure out what and when and how. Once I figure that out, I’ll give myself that kick in the head. Besides, Florida is just a means of getting my heart out of the cold. Thanks for the hugs!

  7. I am so sorry to hear you are not well ! But I do understand the choices you have made.Remember that when one door closes another one will be opened for you. I do hope you’ll be very happy in Florida and that your health will improve ! I look forward to hear from you again ! Good luck !!

    • Hi Gwennie. Thank you for your kind words. Florida just seemed like the quickest way to get my heart out of the cold. Once things warm up in the northern areas, I’ll be back. Posts will return — they just might be coming from Florida for a little bit. 🙂

  8. I moved away from Florida last year for health reasons, back to the midwest. I miss the tropical lushness. Houseplants here grow outside there, and there is almost a year round growing season and new varieties to explore. A gardener’s paradise, just different. I share your feelings of leaving one area for another, having left family behind in Florida. Wishing you the very best of luck, health and gardening!

    • Hi James. I’m thinking there will be a lot to learn and consider — maybe that will be the subject of many posts. And there will also be the topic of returning to my NY garden, which will have been neglected. Ugh! Thanks for the comment.

  9. Hi Kevin, You know that I am in Florida, and if you are near Coral Gables, FL, contact me. I would love to show you Fairchild. MaryC

  10. While your garden is resting under a blanket of snow you will be resting in the sunshine and warmer temperatures of Florida. Upon your return your garden will greet you with the freshness of spring and many blooms to behold. In the meantime I hear Florida has a whole lot of beautiful tropical blooms and much to be ventured, explored and learned about. I like to be positive and as many are saying here…as one door closes another opens and new opportunities appear, which is so true. I feel the sadness coming from your words but understand your decision, and hope nothing but the best for you and improved health.

    • Hi Lee. Thank you so much for your beautiful words. The more I read the comments, the more my mind if thinking of field trips around Florida — and the photos and posts that may come out of those trips. I’m thinking my plants would like to come along with me. 🙂

  11. So sorry that your health is making you make such a difficult choice! We were forced to move last year due to my husband needing to switch jobs because he was working such insane hours at a stressful job, and it was taking a toll on his health (he also has heart issues). I won’t lie, it was very hard. But it was meant to be, and new opportunities and a new life is starting. And to me the South is a much easier place to be a garden blogger in during the winter 🙂 I hope that you will find both inspiration and healing in your new location, and maybe a new passion for a new and different type of gardening.

    • Thank you for your kind words. Florida will be an adjustment, even for the few months that I’ll be there. I’m approaching the whole process as a learning experience, a rewrite. Once I make the adjustment, I’ll be back to posting. Hope your husband is doing better with his heart. We should compare notes someday. 🙂

  12. Welcome soon to Florida! I too was scared of making a change from northern gardening, so I understand your concerns there, but your health is first priority and you will find so much to learn and enjoy down here. We are in central Florida and this is a BIG state, with probably at least 3 hardiness zones, so there is a lot to learn and experiment, but I know you will be up to it as soon as you wrap your mind around this move being scary but important. Best to you and yours, and again, welcome!

  13. I will miss you and the beautiful plantings you have shared with us. Just rest and read seed catalogs and go “garden looking” around your temporary town. And think of pot gardening. You can grow pretty things in pots. There might be a place where the community gardens together and they might appreciate your help and advice. I am not in Florida, but Alabama. We have hot humid weather in the summer but a pleasant winter. I think you might eventually feel comfortable here.

  14. Hoping that a new door opens to inspiration in the weeks to come … perhaps different angles and insights than before, but no less fulfilling. Remain open to what waits for you! And may good health be waiting, most importantly.

  15. All my good thoughts and wishes are with you. Take care of yourself and stop worrying so much. You are not neglecting your garden, you are turning it over to Mother Nature to handle for a while. And she has more experience than you do.

  16. My best wishes for a quick return to the NE. I had heart surgery 3 years ago now and since then have followed the great strides that have occurred in this area. I am in good health with no side effects. So get yourself a great doctor and they will have you in recovery mode soon. I will be checking through your archives as I only found this site recently.
    Looking forward to Good News.

    • Hi Maureen. Thanks for the well wishes. Here’s a synopsis of my heart stuff. I have coronary artery disease. The journey started about eight years ago with a failed stress test, a very mild heart attack, and 8 stents. A few months later, and a few more stents. A year or so after that,more stents. I currently have 13. The latest blockage seems to be sensitive to stress and cold — causes the artery to spasm, which makes the heart work harder, which creates symptoms. What a journey it’s been. I’ll keep you “posted” along the way!

  17. Dearest Kevin – It’s so hard to leave behind the people and places you love so deeply (I truly understand that!), but, your health is foremost – take care of that and the rest will fall into place! I know you will continue to write – it’s in your blood. The photography will also continue – that too, is part of who you are. The garden will look different, but it will be lush and gorgeous! Your green thumb comes naturally, from both sides of your family. You will find a way in Florida, just as you did in MY. I was just looking at the pic of your hibiscus – it should thrive outdoors down south. I thought they could survive VA winters, but alas, found they couldn/t. I bet they will in southern Florida, I’m sure!! Anyway, keep positive thoughts and a hopeful heart! I hope you are at least as happy in your new home state as I am in mine! Sending you all my love and hugs! Aunt Pat

    • Hi Aunt Pat. I bet you say this to all of your nephews! 🙂 Seriously, though, thank you for the encouragement and warm thoughts. It’s a bit bittersweet at the moment, but I’m considering this experience a rewrite of sorts. Posts will return in time.

  18. Dear Kevin….. Rewrites have a way of entering our lives when least expected. Although these unexpected challenges often begin as darkness, trust the unfolding, and with time, the understanding of the words and life you are meant to now live, and share, will grow and blossom. If we are the respect the mysteries and magic of our gardens, we must respect the same mystery and magic of our own lives.

    Kev, I am so happy you are releasing daily stressors from your life, and am trusting massive doses of Vitamin D will heal and strengthen you.( Best decision ever made, retiring and wintering in sunny Spain!) Much,much love to you and Joe, and travel safely to this new and exciting chapter ahead of you…. Hasta pronto! Jeannie ( and James)

    • Hi Jeannie and James. I often think of your life in Spain and how warm it must feel there. I do appreciate your sentiments and reminding that lessons learned in the garden can certainly be applied to life. Be well, my friend!

  19. Kevin, I am so sorry to hear that you are going through such a difficult time with your health. I have no doubt that the time in Florida will be very good for you, but we always want to make those decisions on our own terms, and not so much because something has happened and we must! I know your colleagues and students are going to miss you terribly, and you them. But I really want to commend you for listening to your body and responding so appropriately. I have too many friends, way too many, who have ignored doctors’ advice and then complicated their lives. I hope you’ll stay in touch with us all, even without your garden. Sounds to me like you might have the perfect opportunity to consider changing your garden potential at the Florida home. I, for one, will really want to know how you’re doing. ox

    • Hi Debra. What I’ve learned throughout my heart history is that my body’s language is more correct than any test. I’ll get back to posting as soon as I’m feeling more settled — although, there is a definite itch to start blogging again. 🙂

  20. Hi Kevin – so sorry to hear that health issues are forcing you from work and a garden you love. With all this frigid weather and snow we’ve been having, the thought of moving to FLA must have a bit of happiness in it but not when it’s not completely your choice. I personally will read your blog whether it’s about gardening or not. You have a terrific writing style and so much humour! Best of luck with your present situation and know that loyal readers will follow you anywhere 🙂

    • Hi Astrid. Thank you so much for your kind words. If truth be told, I’m already feeling the need to post — but I’m going to wait a bit until I feel a bit more settled. Be well!

  21. Kevin,
    This post was so poetic. It made my head rush with excitement for you, but also sadness. I believe you are making the right decision. In regards to the heath problems you have so graciously shared with your readers, I believe Florida will be a good position for you to be in. I have a feeling you will find out information for us on how to garden in that area not because you want to for this blog, but because you live for gardening. It is in your blood! My best to you and yours, Alesia

    • Hi Alesia. Thank you for this. I’m feeling like it’s time to start posting soon — but I’m holding off until I get to a warmer place — location and health wise! By the way — Go Seahawks! 🙂

    • Hi Bridget. I’m feeling better about my decision — and it will be a new adventure, one that I hope to share with all of you. Hope all is well in your part of the world!

  22. Oh, I am so sorry to hear this, Kevin. However, I am glad you’re taking care of yourself, and doing what you need to do. I’ll miss you on your blog, but sometimes we need a change of scenery in many ways. I know you’ll have lots of adjustments, and I wish you strength, good health and happiness through this. I’ll keep an eye on your blog in the future. I know what you mean about being without a garden. I’ll be in the same boat with you soon (I have been grieving over the loss of the garden since June 2013). Yes, we’re moving to Atlanta this spring! My husband’s employer closed the office/plant here, but luckily he was offered a position at the Atlanta office. All the best, my friend. 🙂

    • Hi Beth. It’s been a strange couple of months — and I can totally relate you what you must also be feeling. I wish you well in your move — and I know that you will take your passion with you and that Atlanta will be the better (and more “bloomingly” beautiful) for it. I’m looking forward to following your progress as you design your new daylily haven. 🙂

    • Hi Vickie. Thank you for your kind words and support. I promise I will be back — I already feel the need and urge to write and share. I’ll see you very soon!

    • Hello Doris — and welcome. I’m so glad you found my blog and that you’re enjoying the content. At present, I’m taking a brief — very brief — hiatus. But new posts will be arriving very shortly. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Be well!

  23. I have a feeling that you’ll find a garden of sorts, whether it’s a window sill, table or door step to ‘gently’ tend. The biggest ‘bug’ you have is the ‘gardening bug’, it’s in your blood & it’s in your soul (sheesh! Hark at me getting all soppy…but it’s true). Be well, be happy & be loved xx

    • JANE! Always great to hear from you. Thank you for your “soppy” words — I’ll take them to heart. 🙂 This is just a tiny speed bump — and gardening and writing will return. Be well!

  24. Aw, Kevin.
    You are such an enormously talented communicator and writer! Your post is touching and reflective — and I see potential too!! Maybe you will move into another phase of gardening you have yet to dabble in … Sketches? Design? Photo editing? Who knows – the highest palm frond is the limit. Hoping you and Joe have a blast on your adventure. Big, sloppy smooches and a toast to/with Muscari!

    • Hey Sarah. And there are some rather high palm fronds in the yard. Seriously, though, it will be an adjustment, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and adventure. Let me know if you’re in town . . . 🙂

  25. Well, Kevin, your change is coming earlier than expected, and I wish you well. As a recent transplant to Georgia from across the Sound, in Connecticut, I can tell you from experience that amid the feeling of loss when you leave the garden of your heart, there is some excitement in starting another one. I hope, after a decent interval of grieving and healing, you get back to digging in the dirt – and sharing online the lessons you unearth.

    Travel safely,

    • Lee, grieving and healing is a wonderful definition. I know it won’t be the same, but there is an excitement to learn and experience something new. It’s good that life keeps is on our toes. Hope all is well with you and that your thawing out a bit.

  26. I can read the frustration in your words as you prepare to leave your delightful spot of Earth behind for a bit. If it helps, I’ll be cheering you along your way into the new spot of Earth you’ll be gardening in. As I read through some of the comments, I had so many great ideas for blog posts that I got a little jealous of your new adventures. Safe travels to your new spot and may the sun shine always gently on your soil.


    • Hi Mia. Thank you for this. My mind is reeling with ideas for future posts — when life gives you lemons . . . Let me know if you’re in the neighborhood. 🙂

  27. Positive thoughts to you, Kevin! I hope you are able to acclimate to you new surroundings and enjoy a different kind of winter. And just because you won’t have a garden, doesn’t mean you won’t have anything to blog about. Thoughts and observations make great posts and since I’ve never been to Florida, I would like to hear your thoughts about it! Hugs to you-Brenda

  28. Don’t worry, you will find strength and happiness in your new home. There are plants in Florida, right? An unexpected wonderful thing will happen and you will be glad that your life changed. I fight against change, it’s so uncomfortable and twists me all around. But when I look back I see that change produces creativity and gives me things that I could never have in a static life, and I know it’s all worth it. I wish you the best, love your blog, and look forward to hearing from you soon!

    • Hi Elaine. I’m catching up on comments and wanted to let you know how much I appreciate your inspiring words. You and I feel the same way about change — reluctant to embrace it, but, oh, what a journey it can provide. Be well!

  29. Pingback: Ice, Snow & A Bit Of Frost | Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

  30. Kevin, I believe that soon after you reach the warmth and sun of Florida you will start to unfurl like the leaves of that spouting coconut in the last photo. There are many kinds of gardens, and you will find a way to make one — if only the one you make with the posts of this blog.

    Give in to rest and reflection. I look forward to hearing from you when you’re back.

    • Hi Cindy. Great to hear from you — and I can already feel my leaves unfurling. 🙂 And since this is south Florida, there’s very little danger of frost damage. I’m looking forward to new reasons to write.

  31. We are suffering a drought here in central California, a drought of Biblical proportions, yet for the first time EVER, I am thinking about planting vegetables for this summer. Your darling garden shed helped inspire me. So, you may be elsewhere, but you can always garden. And, it sounds like you will return to your beloved garden. Don’t get too low. Time passes very quickly. Oh, and I hope you are consuming a plant-based diet.

    • Thank you for your comment. For some reason, it seems easier to eat healthy here. I think a lot has to do with the warmer weather and outdoor life. Best of luck with the vegetable gardening. I know the drought certainly provides a challenge, but I’m sure there are many gardeners looking for ways to garden successfully in those conditions. I wonder if the east coast can gather snow and deliver some of it to the west coast. Just a thought.

  32. Kevin, I’m just catching up with your news. I want to reassure you that it is possible to have a garden that you are away from for months at a time. You may have to make some adjustments to the way you garden on Long Island, but you can still garden. As for Florida, I think a gardener is a gardener wherever he goes.

    • Jean, I knew I could count on you for sound advice! I have to admit, it is interesting to be a gardener in a strange land — about the only thing I’ve learned so far is to forget everything I know about gardening in the north. Florida gardening is a whole new beast — should make for some interesting and funny posts.

  33. Pingback: Field Trip: Local Color At The Farmers Market | Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

  34. A bittersweet post Kevin, what you are leaving behind, all be it temporarily, is I understand so special to you. Maybe you will become a garden visitor or voyeur in your new southern clime. Maybe you will have the time to write your opus. Maybe you will sow a few seeds in pots on a windowsill……
    It’s good to hear you are taking care of your health first, but I’m sure somehow you will take care of what is also precious to you – your gardening genes x

    • Hi Claire. Yes, my health comes first and something had to be done. In a perfect world, it would have been great to move my northern garden to Florida — but then, I would miss out on an opportunity to learn and grow. Be well!

  35. Pingback: The Biggest Seed I Ever Planted | Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

  36. Oh Kevin, I do hope things work out for you. I have been back-tracking through your posts and have discovered your reasons for moving to a warmer climate. I lived most of my life in the sub- tropics and it was truly delightful, fragrant and you could pack your so-called winter clothes away for nine months! I hope you will find it wonderful and that your health will benefit from the sunshine, warmth and new found adventures, take care,

  37. Pingback: A Box To Build A Dream On | Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s