40th year and 4 wonderful things

This is my 40th year. In July I’ll officially have lived on this planet for 40 years. Lucky me! It’s been one hell of a ride.

I embrace aging, and they were right! All those wise people told me growing up that it gets better, and at this point at least, I’d have to agree! The lines deep around my eyes are testament to my time outdoors observing wildlife, sowing seeds, and smiling and laughing a lot. The past 5 years in particular have really been powerful, aging me sublimely like a good wine. If it gets better than this, I’m ready for more!

In my 40th year, there are FOUR big things I’ve recognized as powerful driving forces and milestones. In no particular order:


It’s the first time in 7 years, that I will not have to lie in a CT scanning tunnel, wondering what the machine is seeing inside my body. I’m cured of cancer, and this is the first year I won’t have to schedule that appointment. As you may have read in previous posts, despite the insanity of navigating a life with cancer, I am grateful for the experience, the lessons, the perspectives. The greatest, most fucked up gift I’ve ever received. But this year, I won’t devote one minute to sitting in a scrubbed sterile, cramped, dreadful medical facility.

Peace out, hope to never come back here again unless I’m volunteering or something.


I’ll become a US citizen next week! Don’t get emotional on me, or assume I’ve made a huge mistake with this awful political climate here. I WANT to be here. Even though I am from Canada- a safe, polite, and typically more liberal country, this is home. Gainesville, Florida has it’s wild and succulent roots growing throughout me and there is no way I can leave. I want to vote, I want to know I will not be evicted from this place. Home is where Mike, Huxley, Gwen, my friends, my nature, my gardens, my seeds, my life is.

Yay!!! I’ll do my part to make America stay great and maybe get a little bit better? USA!


The non-profit business I’ve incubated for years with Anna, and more recently Maya, Sarah and now Jesse (holy women powerhouse team!) is really, like really, growing this year. For years I’ve built this seed program little by little, and as we slowly made our way to the national scene-we have reached a point where two major federal projects were funded to help us magnify the work we do with regional seed.

Little, little me in my Gainesville bubble, is sought out by people around the country to help write project proposals, plan national conferences, serve on advisory boards, and collaborate on powerful projects. So many beautiful threads have been woven along the way that are too long to list but suffice it to say, have created this tapestry of community, food, seed, art….that is beyond what I could have imagined.

Well. That’s not entirely true. These things were on my vision board for sure. I dreamed them and worked really fucking hard to make them happen. But in reality, in the flesh, in our office, in our gardens, in our event space – they are so real, so beautiful, so beyond what is contained within them, that it was impossible to know what this felt like. I almost can’t believe it, and pinch myself. Is this really happening?

So many things to grow, so little time!


Corn. Yes, corn. Let me explain. Clearly you know by now I’m a seed freak. Early in my gardening days, I advocated against people growing and eating corn. It wasn’t good for you, required a lot of fertilizer and water, often presented itself as mono-cropped GMOS sucking out the rich prairie soils and eliminating habitat in the mid-west, purely to be sold as high fructose corn syrup and ethanol.

That’s all true, but corn is SO much more. I learned over the years from very wise people about the true nature and story of corn, as an ancestral crop that sustained people over many thousands of years, coaxed from the wild into unimaginable diverse varieties spanning the globe. Corn was beyond good for you if treated respectfully. Then I learned about seeds and saving them…and corn frightened me. It seemed the most daunting: easily crossed with other corns within miles, required a really high number of plants to grow in order to have good genetic diversity, and then the giant ears, the shucking….naaaaa. I was saving that project for later. Some time down the road when I was ready.

Well this year, after a few years of dabbling, it’s happening and I didn’t really see it coming. A valuable, endangered, heirloom that only a few in our community have been passionately and desperately trying to keep alive—really needs my help. I won’t be growing it myself like I did last year or 3 years prior, but I am connecting the dots, to the right people to do it. This year it’s not me. I can’t. But I know who can.

Yesterday, in a quaint old Florida home, nestled in the back woods of Cross Creek, where it feels like you’ve stepped way back in time, I convened with 3 other beautiful people to discuss the plight, opportunity, and plan of attack for saving this corn. Like me, it belongs here. So I’ll fight to save it. If we can successfully revive it and share it, it will surely make once again as it did as far back as the 1800’s, the finest grits, the best bourbon, and the tastiest cornbread.

Community, responsibility, corn! Left to right: Karen Sherwood, Jack Simmons, Sally Morrison and me!

So 40 is looking great! Cancer-free, the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, a meaningful career, and corn! What more is a girl to want? Oh, I also learned how to floss (the dance, not the dental hygiene practice), and my sweet little niece will be turning 1!





3 Comments Add yours

  1. Samm says:

    Wonderful!! You have so much to be proud of and really have mastered the art of being not only successful, but “happy”. Happy early birthday Melissa 🙂


  2. Nan Milleson says:

    I found that 40 is when life starts looking better. Your dreams start coming together & life starts making a little sense & you have a lot more direction on where you want to go. I can feel your Mom smiling at your accomplishments and the woman you are becoming. Congratulations on making the passsionate team of women over 40. Keep moving forward the world is better for having you.


  3. Lynn Polke says:

    Happy Birthday Melissa! Oh how exciting it is to see you grow, grow and grow! Your spidery web of influence and dedication to everyone in our community sets an example for all. As a new American feel free to sow your Canadian kindness and compassion everywhere, please!


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