Gardening In Babylon


Sitting here at the beginning of 2013, it’s easy to imagine that I’ll most remember the year 2012 for how it ended, coming home in the last month to Marshall Space Flight Center after a year and a half away.

But, notable ending aside, 2012, by mass, was a chapter in my life about evolution, about answering a question the previous year had posed about who I am.

For the longest time, if you’d asked me to describe myself, somewhere pretty high on the list would be the fact that I’m a writer. Heck, I think that was my entire Twitter bio at one point. And for at least 15 years, it had been true — since college, I’d spent six years writing for newspapers and nine years writing for NASA education.

And then, one day, I’m not a writer anymore. At least, not in the sense of someone who writes things. No one was paying me to write, and I wasn’t even writing on here with any sort of regularity.

So if I don’t write, it’s hard to argue I’m a writer. What am I then?

I started working on the answer late the year before, but 2012 was the year that it really began to coalesce.

I started working at the Depot toward the end of 2011, but I expanded what I was doing there last year, doing more field trip programs for kids, and starting to give tours for adults. It was through that I ended up being “discovered” and doing the Maple Hill Cemetery Stroll this fall.

I also continued substitute teaching from the year before, doing more of it and in more places than the year before. Some days were great, some were not so great. The great days, as a rule, tended to be the ones where I got to do more actual teaching, instead of babysitting.

My work with Cottage Senior Living included some writing, but also let me revisit my design and graphics skills I’d not used professionally in a long time.

I did begin writing again. I wrote a blog for the U.S. Space & Rocket Center. I wrote articles for Mud & Magnolias magazine. I finished another draft of a book. And now I’m writing at my new job.

Then there’s the more random factors, like selling Pampered Chef and starting Comic Science Improv from the ashes of Face2Face.

And putting it all together, it becomes a story about, well, putting it all together.

Last year, more than any other, I took my foundation as a writer, and built on it, using pieces old and new. I’m a communicator. I can do that with writing, but I can also do it through design or speaking or graphics or acting. They stopped being separate things, and became parts of one thing.

And that one thing is telling a story. I told a lot of stories last year, about the Huntsville Depot, about The Commons, about the Space Launch System, about Christmas lights in Mississippi, about dead Alabama governors, about the space shuttle, about quality kitchen shears.

I was a writer. And one day I wasn’t.

Last year was about becoming something else. It’s a story about becoming a storyteller.