Thursday, April 17, 2008

Gayla Trail, Urban Gardener

Because of a field trip and graduation mayhem, this post is a bit late, but still necessary because of the value of this speaker's words! Gayla Trail, self-described "urban gardener" and author of blog You Grow Girl visited USF two Thursdays ago for the Davies Forum on Digital Literacy. It was great to have her here! I wish everyone could hear her speak, now I understand the tremendous importance of urban gardening.

One of Trail's mottos is "Play is Valuable." She said Play is three things: a learning tool, a way to explore and make discoveries, and also an opportunity to make mistakes. Her site started as her own play. She simply loved to garden, and was bored with her corporate job. "I just wanted other people to relate to," she said about starting the blog. It turns out people do relate to her, her blog is pretty popular.

She talked about her thought that gardening media is so flat and boring. Think about it: we tend to talk about nature as dead, she said. She referred to a quote by someone called Johnson who said instead of wilderness, we should call it wildness-. This makes the term a quality rather than a place, an adjective rather than a noun, and a little more exciting. Instead of gardening magazines for inspiration on gardening, Gail refers to works of literature: stuff like Michael Pollan's Second Nature, and Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

Her main point is that we need to start seeing the city and nature as being able to coexist. We tend to think of them as separate. Gardening can inspire wonder and delight. "I use the word wonder a lot when I talk about gardening, " Trail said. After hearing her speak, I thought, duh! Gardening is a healthy habit that is fulfilling, good for the earth, and fun. Why is it still fairly obscure?

In addition to all of her pro- gardening points, Trail brought up some interesting points about blogging in general. "When you try to write in the mainstream, you have to be validated by someone else- not in personal media," she said. This means there's no editorial process. Maybe this is a good thing, or a bad thing. One bad thing may be that with blogging, you tend to write something, and then later connect with it and only come to know it after it's out there, open for criticism. In her own blog, Trail uses a lot of personal voice. "I have a lot of problems with the idea of hierarchy, I don't like authority" she said. She also uses a lot of photos in her blog because "we're a very visual culture."
Her blog being a sort of how to site for gardening, Trail also has a unique blogger perspective. "There are too many variables (in gardening) to give exact directions, the wrong way to give gardening directions is to say this is how you do it...I try to encourage people to make mistakes, kill plants, etc."

No comments: