So, my husband says to me, “What’s with that bowling ball in the corner?”
I sigh and say, “Oh, that was from the Garden Balls for Good campaign. Didn’t happen.”
“Garden Balls for Good?” he asks, dipping his toe into a sea of endless surprises. (At any given time, he only knows the half of them.)
I reply, “It’s not even worth talking about. Turns out donating bowling balls opens a liability can of worms, or at least that’s what the bowling alleys told us.”
That didn’t stop my friend Rick from calling from the aisle of a Goodwill store and asking, “Are you still collecting bowling balls? There’s one here I can get for you.”
No, no, no. No bowling balls, although it was a good idea. Bowling alleys would donate the bowling balls they no longer want, and local artists would turn them into garden balls, like this. (Didn’t know there was an upcycled bowling ball garden art movement, did you?). People would buy them at a “ball” in the food pantry garden. Food, dancing, the works. Money would get raised for the garden. And it would clearly be fun. Sort of like the Wine and Dine Bottle Garden project (in which famous artist Steve Penley even participated), which actually raised enough money for well over a year (even though the hydroponic grow bottles never really worked right, but I still make the vases).
We actually tried with the bowling balls, although not all that hard. My friend Tracy (of Lady of the Lettuce fame) went to a few bowling alleys, made a few calls. We hit roadblocks right away. In addition to the liability issue at the alleys, I visited a few Goodwill store locations and the balls were something like $12 each, not just a buck or two, and we had no budget. So there was a definite sourcing problem.
So I let that one go. Like many others. My favorite “ideas in the corner” are still Mint for Good (the one where the ice cream company buys mint grown by a nonprofit and donates money back — I was seeing an entire network of Mint for Good ice cream company participants nationwide), Urban Links upcycled bike chain bracelets (created by folks experiencing homelessness who get paid by the hour whenever they drop in to work), and BikeNoodle (of course).
But Georgia’s Garden? (Where I tried to encourage then-governor Sonny Perdue to have an organic garden at the governor’s mansion that citizens can visit — turns out there is already a vegetable garden there but it is completely private and I could never get a clear answer on its growing methods). I gave that one up (but don’t miss A Church/State Mashup on the Steps of the Capitol about how Governor Perdue’s answer to drought was prayer — I was there).
And Crops, Not Cops? (Yes, I had the domain name, and was going to encourage local law enforcement agencies nationwide to champion creating gardens in communities with at-risk youth after I found out the shockingly positive effect gardens have on reducing recidivism in young inmates — here’s the article I was hired to write about that, titled Doing Thyme in the Garden). No go. I never wrote a word on that blog, but it’s catchy, isn’t it?
There are many more ideas. Dozens. Maybe even hundreds. They lay in the corners of my house and the corners of my mind, and they percolate. They never really go away (every Sunday, in fact, I think of this one, which was part of a project to make a skirt out of bananas — honestly, don’t get me talking about this one; I have a LOT to say). Some little germ of each of them somehow morphs and combines with others to form something completely new when I least expect it. When I’m Traveling at the Speed of Bike or growing Food for My Daughters (or mostly myself, now), it starts with a little voice that asks, “What if?” and then snaps into focus. “Why not!” (This is one of the many reasons I miss my friend Bob — he was usually the recipient of the text that followed my aha moments, and he made every idea better.)
I may even exclaim out loud something like “The Red Bicycle Project! I’ll take pictures of red bicycles whenever I see them for the next ten years, and then do a traveling art show of the photos at major museums globally to showcase the cultural anthropology of it all! And I’ll raise money to buy bicycles for those in need!” Yes, this somehow makes sense to me, and seems completely achievable (at least for a moment or two). And the germ of it? It started when I read that book, Material World, which featured pictures of people’s possessions all over the world, and so many of them said their most prized possession was their bicycle. So, you never know.
The Naked Truth about Hunger, for instance. I still think that’s a good idea. Pictures of naked (but not really naked) people involved with growing food for those in need, collected into a calendar of social-media-crowd-sourced favorites, and sold print-on-demand (so no upfront printing costs) to raise money for food pantry gardens nationwide. (It morphed into this.)
We live in a society that’s quick to give things (and people) a thumb’s up or thumb’s down, a yes or a no, an acceptance or a rejection. But that’s not how ideas work. That’s not how creativity and innovation work (and creativity and innovation are the secret sauce of success in our changing world). And that’s not how people work, either.
Keep your ideas in the corners of your life. And take them out every now and again and revisit them. Because you may be surprised to find they have changed. As have you. As has the world. And you may discover that the time is now ripe to do something new with them.
Sort of like my Bucket List book (currently available on Amazon in all global markets), which I lived and wrote the year before I started my first blog (Foodshed Planet) in 2006 (before I wrote the other books). The time may actually be ripe for it to be refreshed. A new cover (with a photo taken by my younger daughter, where my older daughter now lives). A new prologue. An epilogue. Some how-to action steps at the end. A paperback version, available at Lemonade Days. A reading at my local coffee shop, perhaps (like I did with Traveling at the Speed of Bike). That kind of stuff.
My husband is particularly hilarious in that book, and since everyone asks, “What about your husband?”* when they hear I’m going to Uganda for two years, maybe it’s time for a reminder of how supportive a man he is on this strange and wonderful journey we’ve shared for 30 years (as of this upcoming January) as husband and wife.
And how one things leads to another.
* and it has been interesting to me that for many people, that’s their only question