Friday, June 2, 2017

Thank You, Daniel — We Will Miss You

Yesterday, one of my garden writer friends lost a hard-fought battle with pancreatic cancer. Daniel Gasteiger was a book author, a newspaper columnist, a blogger, a social media marketing consultant, and more than all that, he was an incredible human being. So many of us are mourning his passing right now and I wanted to share my own Daniel story. It's long, so be forewarned. It's actually done Daniel-style: he could never use ten words when twenty would do...

Every once in a while, someone comes along who stands out and makes a difference in your life. I met Daniel Gasteiger in person for the first time, at the Philadelphia Flower Show, six years ago.

Me, Daniel, and Shawna, at the Philadelphia Flower Show in 2011.

First of all, I couldn't believe I was actually at the show. Shawna Coronado and I had been sent there courtesy of the Plastics Make It Possible group and we had an incredibly good time, while highlighting how plastics can have a place in the gardening world in a good way. Meeting Daniel was just icing on the cake.

Over the years, Daniel and I had some wonderful, serious, funny, fabulous conversations, mostly online, because he lived in Pennsylvania (on the east side) and I live in Ohio (on the west side). But now and then, we'd see each other at a garden event and you know how it is - it was like we had just seen each other yesterday.

Daniel took this photo of Shawna, Jenny, and me, when we were in
Tucson, AZ, for the Garden Writers Association annual meeting in 2012.

Daniel started this crazy thing where he'd say online how he sure wished he could meet me someday. Those who would read it would think we'd never met in real life. I had some people say to me, "You've never met Daniel in person before?" I'd explain the ruse, telling them that we'd actually met several times, and they'd look at me funny, like they didn't think it was really funny at all. But they just didn't get it and that didn't matter anyway. Daniel and I did.

Then the day came when I got a contract to write a book with Jenny Peterson. Neither Jenny nor I had ever written a book before and this was definitely uncharted territory for us. Daniel and I were both waiting for a flight in an airport somewhere I can't remember right now, and he congratulated me on the contract and we had a lengthy conversation about book writing.

I reviewed Daniel's book for Horticulture
magazine here.
Daniel had just published his fantastic book, Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too: The Modern Step-by-Step Guide to Preserving Food, the year before, and he had some sage words of advice about writing. Of all the things he said, the one thing that really stuck with me was this: "I wrote that book in three weeks."


Now seriously, people. If you've ever written a book, you'll know how insane that is. I know now that he was probably referring to the actual sitting down and putting it all together, using bits and pieces from his blog and newspaper articles and filling in whatever he needed to in order to produce a cohesive, proper tome, but dang. Three weeks.

Jenny and I wrote our book and while it took longer than three weeks, we were under a tight schedule and it was Daniel's inspiration that kept us motivated, giving us the confidence that we could do it. And we did. Indoor Plant Decor: The Design Stylebook For Houseplants was released on April 15, 2013.

Time went on and Daniel kept right on wishing he could meet me and I wished right back that I could meet him. Somewhere in there, he made plans to stop off at our house on the way home from Chicago and share supper with us. We were out of bread and though I don't remember now what it was we were having, we needed bread.

Since we live in the middle of nowhere and going to the store to buy some bread involves more than a quick car trip to the store and back, I texted Daniel, who was on his way, and asked if he could stop somewhere and get a loaf of bread. It just so happened, he had a loaf in his car. Doesn't everyone carry a loaf of bread in their car in case there's a bread emergency?

Daniel often camped out on his cross-country trips, so of course he had some bread, and he supplied it for our meal. And when he left, somehow the loaf of bread didn't go with him. So a loaf of bread got added to our, "I hope I can meet you someday" tete-a-tete of sorts: "And if I ever get to meet you, I'll bring a loaf of bread."
A few years went by and last year, I got another book contract - for The Monarch: Saving Our Most-Loved Butterfly - this time writing solo. Once again, I was on a fairly tight schedule. It's a pretty well-known fact that I'm The Queen of Procrastination, but I was determined to set aside my title in order to get this book done without the stress and drama that goes along with procrastination. But you know what happened, don't you?

When I got home from the GWA meeting in Atlanta last September, I knew I really had to put my nose to the grindstone and crank that baby out. And Daniel once again came to mind. I had three weeks until my deadline and the bulk of the book had yet to be written. If Daniel could do it, so could I. So I shut myself up in an upstairs bedroom, looked at my husband and said, "See you in three weeks," and closed the door.

My bedroom office.

There's something to be said for shutting out the rest of the world and concentrating on a single task. I've always done my best work when I'm down to the wire and I'm forced to just do it. It isn't always that I don't like what I'm doing - I loved writing this book - it's just that a lot of the writing process for me happens in my head first. If things aren't organized a certain way in my head, I simply can't put it on paper.

The book got finished and yes, the bulk of it was written in those three-weeks-that-turned-into-four. I only left the house twice in that time. I was on a roll and woe be it to anyone who interrupted the flow of things. My husband was nothing short of awesome. A saint, really.

But I don't think I could have accomplished what I did had it not been for Daniel being there in the back of my mind, urging and encouraging me, though he didn't really know at the time. He truly was a huge driving force, especially as I battled bronchitis during that time and wanted to do nothing but sleep. He kept me focused.

I wanted to let Daniel know how much I appreciated him, so in the acknowledgements at the back of The Monarch, you'll see this:

When I got my copies of the book, I sent one to Daniel, telling him to be sure to see page 158. About a week later, I got this heartfelt note from him, which I will always treasure...

Click on image to make it larger and easier to read.

Daniel was an inspiration to many and it was pure joy to be in his presence. He had an energy that was compelling and you wanted to be a part of it. The best thing was - he let you. I hoped I would get to "meet" him again before this awful disease took him from us. But in the end, I'm grateful that our paths crossed at all, and that I was privileged to have him in my life, even if it was for such a short time. 

Rest well, Daniel.


Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a nice tribute for a mentor/friend.

Terra said...

That is a beautiful Daniel story and acknowledgement in your book. I like your little inside joke about hoping to meet in person. It is sad to lose a good person.

Kat Vilim said...

A beautiful post, Kylee. I never met Dan in person, juust via #gardenchat. Even his on-line presence told me what a great person he was. I can imagine how sorely he will be missed for those who knew him closely. I am happy I got to share some on-line garden time with him.

brenda said...

Lovely tribute post Kylee. I knew Daniel for years, but only on-line through Twitter and Facebook posts and #gardenchats but felt as though I had met him and so in light of your post, I'll say I'm so glad to have met Daniel and gotten to know him and to feel we, too, broke bread. What a good man! Again - lovely post!

1st Man said...

What a beautiful post for a life lost far too soon. Thanks for 'sharing' him with us.

Peace and blessings

Pam/Digging said...

That's a lovely tribute, Kylee.

Joe Lamp'l said...

Beautiful tribute Kylee. So sad and hard to believe we've lost Daniel from our group. Thank you for sharing this wonderful story.

Twila said...

I only knew Daniel through reading his columns in our local paper about his journey with cancer. The last two weeks there was no column and I missed his updates. I was so sad today when I read of his passing. I had emailed him awhile back about his column, and received a nice email back from him.Now I wish I would have made an effort to meet him. He sounds like a wonderful person to know, and I enjoyed reading your blog story about him.

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