Memories Become Inspiration

We built this fire pit because we like roasting marshmallows. Then it became a gathering place, nourishing the soul

By Jim Sollecito

fire pitSome images are burned into our memory. I have always been curious about different things, different places. As a boy in Sunday school I learned the story of Jesus curing the lepers. It rolled around in my brain — would that ever be possible? A number of years later I found myself in the middle of a leper colony in North India. It wasn’t intentional. A stroll with two friends in Delhi happened to take us there.

I didn’t have a lot of experience relating to such surroundings. Probably 100 people, some family groups, all enduring the same fate. Maybe all awaiting their own savior, but stuck as they were for the moment. I knew I should probably leave but was too fascinated. Watching them cook food over open charcoal fire pits, I wondered where they got their ingredients.

They gently begged. We gave some rupees as we tried to look them in their obscured eyes. That was a life lesson to stand the test of time.
Everything changes, including ourselves. Some changes we don’t like, particularly as we age. Can you imagine the morning one of these people woke, recognized permanent disfigurement and accepted banishment to communities within a city? How this would affect… everything.

I guess we have to be comfortable in our own skin. But how could they possibly? Then I saw that they were.
That single event infused a bit of humble realism into the raging optimist I was mere moments before. Life does that to us. We get up every morning. Because life is what you make it.

This is the view of a pond I dug a number of years ago. Our daughters learned to fly fish here. We enjoyed swimming and kayaking. Wildlife took turns when we were not present. We built this fire pit, initially because we like roasting marshmallows. Then it became a gathering place, nourishing the soul. A place for reflection as wood turned to smoke and rose to the sky.

I love our farm and the thousands of shrubs and trees I planted because it encourages stillness, essential for balance. Sitting quietly, nature untangling our thoughts, is perhaps an underappreciated form of therapy.

Year 2016 was environmentally challenging. We experienced a spring-like winter. Then a winter-ish spring followed by no rain, then too much at once. Leaves turned color, but refused to let go. We professional landscapers have never seen such tenacity. Honestly, it was inspirational.

Some people think that life gets better by chance. I believe it gets better through change. Some of it is out of our control. And some we can implement. We’ll feel the change this winter as lake effect slows us down. Then, as the snow melts, our anticipation for spring will increase and revitalize us. Nature sets an inspiring example, moving forward with gusto. And so do we.

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