I have a son-in-law, Don, who created and operates a nursery that specializes in succulents and other drought-resistant plants. He started the nursery essentially from scratch and with his creativity and energy has elevated it to one of the finest in Southern California. In my periodic visits I have watched the evolution of this nursery from a 5-acre empty lot into a beautiful, visitor-friendly garden, filled with luscious plants, and vivid colors. (See https://www.facebook.com/SerraGardens?fref=ts)

580184_683026585047554_890415969_n This result did not happen over night. It happened with hard work and great attention to detail. Don is not one to standby and watch others do the work. He has taken to heart the advice of Margaret Atwood’s admonition “…at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt..” I am sure that my daughter would attest that after working hard all day,he arrives home…”smelling like dirt”. It’s a good smell, it’s the smell of achievement, of small and large accomplishments.

I got to thinking about “smelling liked dirt” at the end of a day of hard work, doing your best and achieving some degree of success. I am not a gardener. Before I retired I worked in universities and colleges. My hands were not dirty, but that feeling of accomplishment, some small and some not so small, that came home with me at the end of the day. I think that meets the standard of Atwood’s “smelling like dirt”!

A few years ago, 10 years after she retired from teaching, my wife was invited to attend a special ceremony honoring out-standing scholars in our state. One of the students she had in fourth grade, singled her out as the teacher that had the greatest impact on him. Quite an honor. An accomplishment, a job well done. I tell you that “smelled” like success. Now I would never say that my wife “smelled like dirt” under any circumstance,  however…

I know, maybe the analogy breaks down at bit. Maybe equating “smelling like dirt” with that sense of accomplishment, loses just a little and is a bit convoluted, but I like it. It’s like saying that the feeling and sense of accomplishment has a tangible quality to it. One that you can actually feel, one that you can see on the face and in the eyes of colleagues…a day well spent, a job well done.


Georg Hegel once said that “…nothing great in the world has been accomplished without passion.” Don has the passion, that drive to achieve a dream and to do it right. His goal was not to have one of the best nurseries in the state, he just wanted to do it right, and that result just happened to followed.  The dirt? Why, he would say that it’s just a bonus!

For What It’s Worth.