When I am not the Principal Undergardener, I have another life that occasionally requires that I hire people to speak about horticulture. I take that responsibility seriously. I demand that the people I hire have three qualities: that they know their subjects very well, that they have enthusiasm for their areas of expertise, and that they know how to convey that enthusiasm to their audience.
I hear a lot of speakers over the course of a year and I notice how well speakers holds their audience's attention. I also pay a lot of attention to the Q&A that follows a presentation. There are speakers who give a terrific talk, but who then answer a few perfunctory questions and then are gone. There is also a subset of speakers who seem to delight in putting down their audience with responses like, 'well, if you had been listening to what I was saying...' I put a thick black like through their names.
|Still answering questions long after|
the presentation is over
I write about Suzanne because, a few weeks ago, she was trimming trees at her home. And, as fate will have it, she climbed onto her roof in order to get a better angle on a tree and she fell. Worse, she was working when no one else was home, and she fell from her roof in a way that shattered her ankle. To get assistance, she dragged herself some distance. I cannot imagine the pain she musty have been in or the agony she endured. Suzanne lives in a sparsely settled town south of Boston and the ER team at her local hospital quickly recognized that her injuries required more specialized care. Precious hours elapsed while she was transferred to an appropriate hospital and infections set in.
Those events happened in September. Suzanne ultimately received the care she needed, but those hours between the time of her accident and when she was properly treated took their toll. She will be in rehabilitation for an extended period - definitely off the garden club circuit.
I write this both as a fan and an expression of my - and all her many friends - hope for a full recovery. Get well soon, Suzanne. There's a world full of people out there who need her enthusiasm and expertise.
(2012-2014 update: Despite multiple surgeries and extensive rehabilitation, the damage to Suzanne's foot proved to be too great and she lost it to amputation. She has otherwise made a full recovery and is back on the lecturing circuit. She continues to be a class act; one of the best speakers I have ever heard.)