Always Learning

By Jim Sollecito

How did they get the flag up on the Lerner School pole outside of Pulaski?

Isn’t it interesting how much influence our early education had on the rest of our lives? Learn something right and it stuck with you. Learned incorrectly, old habits are hard to break, as the nuns used to say.

So what is up with this sign that made me pull over and ponder for a bit?

I came upon this decades-old relic outside Pulaski on Tryon Road near where we recently installed a landscape project. It evoked a lot of memories and emotions. None of mine were made here, but memories nevertheless. Parts of school I loved and cherished; other parts I could not let go fast enough. It is hard to become experienced without making mistakes. I did more than my share. Hopefully we learn from them.

Daydreaming through the classroom window, watching seasonal changes, I thought about places I wanted to go and relationships I hoped to experience, among other deep thoughts, of course. Such as what’s on the cafeteria menu and whether I could afford the luxury of chocolate milk that day.

I dig historic structures like this. And I wish I knew if that is an old flag pole on top and if so, how did the flag get there each day? Maybe I’m coming to grips with myself as I age, trying to rise and shine every morning. But spotting a vintage car, an old wooden boat, a building that has served its time, encourages me to stop, contemplate and admire.

I pretty much have everything I wanted as a student, albeit a bit later than planned. I am now busy rebalancing and editing my possessions and my environment. Even my landscape plantings: removing pieces that are beyond graceful aging. Replacing with fresh, new, inspired selections. Choices I can enjoy now and also planting for the future. I am building a barn so I can move a lifetime of possessions indoors, carefully considering which to keep, admitting that many have no value to anyone but me. At some point even those will meet the dumpster.

Some roads merely move us ahead, while others revitalize us. By the time this is published, after 18 months of planning and motivating, our West Genesee High School 50th Reunion will be complete. The reunion will be another piece of history. A weekend of rehashing old times and creating new memories. It may have required some mental flossing to remember if that grown woman in front of me is the same girl who sat next to me senior year. Or did she come as a guest and I have no other reason to know her?  Either way, some interesting conversation may crop up over shared moments, just like in the old cafeteria.

As we watch things around us age, I remind you not to feel bad about growing older. It’s a privilege that is denied to many. We’re developing a patina. And just like in English class, you can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep rereading the last one.

Jim Sollecito is the first lifetime senior certified landscape professional in New York State. He operates Sollecito Landscaping Nursery in Syracuse. Contact him at
315-468-1142 or