Sunday Opinion: Slide Wire Potentiometers


 My partner Buck collects all manner of old gauges; he tells me they are known as potentiometers.  They measure with incredible accuracy, electric current.  These devices are beautiful wood boxes studded with all manner of knobs and dials. Many of them hang on the walls of his office; they are beautiful objects. I do not share his passion for instruments of all kinds, but I do like the idea of potentiometers.  It is my opinion that most every person comes with imagination, creativity, and a whole host of other things that make it possible to design- as standard equipment. If you think you do not have this, then maybe you need to switch on your potentiometer.

 A college professor of literature once told me he thought the transmission of knowledge was one of life’s most important responsibilities. The closest I come to teaching is speaking to groups. Some groups are focused on gardening. The herb society wants my discussion of classical English herb gardens. The women’s farm and garden wants a demonstration on proper planting techniques. Other groups are tougher to plan for, and engage.  A spring charity luncheon needs a guest speaker; what will I talk to them about? Who are they? 

 But no matter the group, or my topic, most questions people ask me imply that my ability to design, and garden is a special gift. A gift given to some, and mostly not to others.  Some people have God-given creativity and astonishing imaginations;  others do not. Most questions thus relate to rules, formulas, and tips. People love lists-and especially lists that might get them beauty through the back door, as they clearly think they have no business at the front. They ask, how can one create a garden in spite of a lack of creativity? Are there secrets I might share? Where do my ideas come from? I want to have what you do in my life-how can I engineer that for myself, hiring you, or a step short of hiring you?  I cannot keep anything alive, I cannot organize this garden, this event, or this porch-can you help me to get where I would like to be? I know you have clients; do you coach?  I recognize these straight line feelings; I often fear I have dreamed up my last idea. I worry regularly that I am going lame or repeating myself, maybe faster than I think. At some point, it shocked me to realize there was no program I could sign myself up for, and be awarded not just a degree, but aesthetic vision, at the end.  So I am sympathetic to these questions. However, I find beautiful work, talented people,inspiring ideas, gorgeous gardens, interesting landscapes, everywhere I go.  Everywhere. 

Lauren Hanson takes my writing and my photographs, and does the work of posting for me-but Sundays, I do this myself.  So why is this post in my favorite font, at my favorite size, and oo la la, in green-unlike any other post ever published here, when I know next to nothing about computers?  I have no doubt it is my potentiometer-working.


  1. Deborah! I am loving your site as it continues to evolve…and will def. continue to mention over at studio ‘g’. thanks so much for your note the other day…I concur…I love the people I am meeting and becoming connected to through the internet…and it is feeding me in a way I never expect or imagined. Like this post…it makes me happy for you.

    oh and I am so curious about butterburrs…I have never heard of them…I am off to research now — thanks

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