My “year of listening” took me most recently to visit a woman who is a leader in this amazing local ecosystem of ours: Nan Sterman. Host of the KPBS show, A Growing Passion, author, teacher, garden designer, social media maven, and active volunteer leader for civic and professional organizations, Nan’s range of activity is nothing short of breathtaking. As we sat together recently, bees were swarming nearby, and the golden light of a San Diego spring afternoon suspended everything briefly for a ripe conversation.
I realized afterwards that Nan hails from the same hometown area as me, the San Fernando Valley, just north of the LA Basin. The horses, orchards, and dairies from that time and place made a lasting impression on both of us. Nan studied Botany, Biology and later Instructional Design. The way she tells it, her love of plants combined with training methods and project management she learned at SDSU enabled her to tackle what I describe as a rather fierce combination of writing, teaching, design and more.
Nan’s story made me reflect on the more circuitous path my career has taken. My early dream of landscape architecture yielded to different academic paths, travels, learning new languages and working in educational nonprofits, but my fascination with nature kept presenting itself over and over again. With repetition, I have learned that I am most happy when I let this passion guide me. Nan’s admirably singular focus developed an expertise that is as deep as it is broad, and she was ahead of her time in many ways. She describes her current interests as complementary: designing waterwise and edible gardens (long before it was in vogue,) producing the latest season of her TV show, and completing another round of the workshops that she obviously loves (her seed-starting classes fill up fast!) You can catch up with Nan in her column in the San Diego Union Tribune and on San Diego Public Radio’s Midday Edition. Her YouTube Channel, A Growing Passion, offers a fun and diverse array of short videos.
Nan’s philosophy that we can understand the world best by starting with what’s around us is so timely and timeless. Food is immediate for everyone, as are the joys of surrounding oneself with beautiful plants and flowers. Nan has made a career from this calling to help other people understand new bits and pieces of this living puzzle we’re all part of. The stories Nan shares about people she’s gotten to know over the years - farmers, vintners, nurserymen, educators and others from all corners of San Diego County - make her smile as she tells them. Her enthusiasm is contagious, or more accurately, I realize with a rush of appreciation that she’s already made me feel a more engaged and lively part of this beautiful world we live in.