Fits Like a Glove

By Jim Sollecito

glovesI have always found hard work to be the best way to get through many problems. Particularly if that activity is something I love to do.

With a tool in my hand and sweat on my brow I navigate a lot of life’s paths. Then things become clearer. Think first, measure twice and cut once.

Spending time outdoors, I stopped to wipe the sweat from my brow and set this old pair of leather gloves (photo) on the maple log. It was time for a water break. I thought about the many creatures who get their hydration from dew that forms on leaves. Even cast-off leaves on their way to becoming pre-soil still have value as moisture collectors. Nature sets the example for re-purposing and recycling, of course.

Nature can sometimes fool us. Appearances can deceive. So it’s important to observe carefully to see what’s really there. Next to that log grow three different plants, all with similar foliage. “Leaves of three let it be” is a phrase we’ve all heard but that is a misleading simplification. Only one of these plants is poison ivy. The others are wild strawberry and a nasty horizontal wild blackberry known as dewberry.

Two can cause serious harm. One is user-friendly, providing a delicious natural red fruit. All have lovely white flowers but the result is not always what we might have expected.

These three plants are all taking advantage of the cycle of life. The old decomposing logs provide nutrients and vigor to the plants as they compete for space closest to the newly created compost. Soil stays moister under rotting wood, another plus when you are thinking like a plant. Living things compete. Advantages have consequences.

In this well-worn pair of deerskin gloves, made from an animal I harvested myself, my hands have been protected from a number of threats. As evidenced by the bloodstained leather, even these gloves could not protect me from some of what life threw my way.

And now, I’ll take off my trusty gloves and stow them safely as I prepare for colder weather. I’ll see about getting something more substantial to get me through the intensity of winter.

Vision can be as simple as seeing what needs to be done and doing it. Vision directs your every day path and decision-making. It is not a mystical prophecy that only a genius can see. Recognize, take action and get something accomplished when no one else could or would.

My job is to anticipate the workable solution in the landscapes I design, then make sure it happens. My paintbrushes are the plants I select and by choosing carefully, my works of art can last decades. Usually this involves separating the plants that are “maybes” from the ones that are proven worthwhile. Think of the three plants in the photograph. Drawing the correct conclusion is critical to success.

I realize it’s time now for Gortex boots and insulated socks. I remember that sometimes you have to step out of your own shoes and look in the direction you’re headed.

As I look ahead with great optimism to the next growing season, my confidence in what lies ahead is immeasurable.

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