Reporting from far-flung places for the Times in the 1980s, I enjoyed the importance of covering presidential campaigns, immigration, the White House and other parts of the federal government for a prestigious newspaper. Following my Washington years, I became Atlanta bureau chief in 1989, reporting from nine southern states.
That posting collided with my reaching age 50 – and the point at which I concluded that rock 'n' roll bang-bang journalism works for some an entire career, but not for me.
Knowing when it's time to go – and then going, is good. I did, and I did.
It's also good if you can follow your passions, something not always easy to do but usually worthwhile. Fortunately, I was able to change writings and stay in journalism. In 1992 I left the Times, moving to the Journal-Constitution and sharing stories about gardening and food – two of life's more profound pleasures, teachers and social lubricants.
This was my second time around, as I had been a member of the Journal-Constitution's editorial board in the 1970s.
Timing's everything. While I enjoyed telling people what to think back then, and while I worked in a sweet spot in journalism during my 12 years with the Times, I was at a point in life when writing about people's passions, including my own, was most gratifying, personally and professionally. That writing also led to heart-warming connections with a great many people, connections that promise to last a lifetime.
I've written two books: Gardening Life, a collection of essays, and a memoir, In My Father's Garden. I corresponded for the PBS television program The Victory Garden, and I've written for a number of magazines, including Southern Accents, Attache, Better Homes and Gardens and Country Gardens.
In addition to writing on gardening and a broad range of other subjects, I deliver speeches from time to time. Too, I practice sourdough bread – and a few other foods.
I manage my ornamental plantings, with care and feeding from my wife Lyn and close supervision by garden cat Bette.