Tag Archives: pursuit



Available on Amazon.
Available on Amazon

Excerpt from Book #1 in Brandon’s Pursuit Series, release date Winter 2014:

The wind from the shattered window in front of her offered a welcomed breeze directly in her face. She was once again lulled, but this time with a profound sense of despair. Only her father’s long-ago words broke through:

Pruning is perhaps the most important aspect of horticulture. In the horticultural world, we try to mimic nature. In the natural arena, there are frosts, drought, stampedes, insects, constant nibbling by creatures, viruses and bacterium, and any number of possible assaults to decimate foliage. This is by far the hardest thing for most people. It is difficult for them to ‘hurt’ the branch or cut away part of something that is living. The result is that much energy is spent on unhealthy parts that should have been removed.

In nature, the weak and unhealthy are eliminated without hesitation. Pruning, and I mean hard pruning, enables the root and stem structure to become more established—thus retaining and distributing nutrients to the healthy parts of the plant. The plant on the whole has a chance to regenerate itself without the burden of the old and diseased material.

The most important thing for you to do in your life is diligent pruning. You must cut off damaged parts that can hold you down and take away energy from your growth. It is imperative that your expenditures are directed to healthy endeavors. And when I say ‘hard pruning,’ Skyler Morgan Smith, I mean not only do you need to cut hard—cutting away the damaged parts and dispose of them entirely—I mean that it will be hard to accomplish. It will take a great deal of perseverance, and perhaps reliving of the hurt, in order to rid yourself of the burden. But it will be worth the pain.

The Cork Oak


Available on Amazon.
Available on Amazon.

Excerpt from Book #1 in Brandon’s Pursuit Series, release date Winter 2014:

She went back in time to a picnic that she had prepared for her father by the Carmel River.

cork bark tree planterThe majestic Cork Oak, Quercus suber, grows to sixty feet both wide and high and has an incredible bark structure. The gnarly thick cork is the bark of commerce. That lovely cabernet I enjoyed last night was protected by that mighty oak’s ‘skin.’ The oak displays a rich palette of color and texture. The leaves have a waxy deep green surface while the under leaf is a fuzzy grey. The cork bark can get up to a foot thick and uses the principles of torque in order to achieve its abstract geometrical branching form. The very attribute that this giant embraces for her notoriety— as well as her protection—is the one attribute that causes her downfall. A common trait in humans.

Lovers and winemakers have desecrated her bark for millenniums. The vintners of ancient times only needed a primitive knife to seal their latest fermentations, while lovers carved eternal inscriptions. Nowadays, industrial wine merchants ravage her completely. Even the industrious woodpecker takes advantage of her soft temperament to shove her own acorns into her skin, assaulting her inner anatomy as they hunt for wood boring beetles. Each one of these assaults is small individually but when accumulated over time, can take down the benevolent elder—the damage becoming irreversible. Each little jab, every insult, all moments of disrespect can result in disease and an eventual structural breakdown.

Human’s personal relationships are exactly like the life of this giant sentinel. A personal relationship is the sum of its parts. The twists and turns of human relationships result in the being as a whole, each event causes branching in a new direction, thus furthering to stabilize the overall structure. When nutrients and illumination are added, the fundamental structure will strengthen. However, in human interaction, each small jab, every tiny insult—even if waived off with a hand—leaves a hole. The natural process can survive a myriad of insults that life will bestow on you gladly and in perpetuity. Winemakers and lovers will readily leave their marks. Yes, there will be a few old initials carved on your own bark, but one must work hard so the holes do not overcome your own wellbeing. To protect your personal structure, you should walk away from anything inflicting little holes, for if you have enough of them—they can take you down.

Fertilizer Philosophy


Excerpt from Book #1 in Brandon’s Pursuit Series, release date Winter 2014:

The warm glow of her father’s speech enraptured her.

Fertilizers are a tricky thing, you know. There are the big three, nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Nitrogen is for the greening of the plant, phosphorous is for flowering and bud set, and potassium is for root and stem structure. There are the micronutrients—calcium, sulfur, and manganese. Iron and some trace elements are also necessary. The funny thing is that if a horticulturist applies fertilizer incorrectly, either in a concentration that is too high or with too many applications, the plant will suffer what is called fertilizer ‘burn.’

Amazingly, fertilizers are salts. Salts have a negative charge, the root nodes that are their targets, have a positive charge. When applied in the proper ratio, one negative attracts to one positive. The necessary nutrient is then extracted from the salt and sent up into the plant material. When the ratio is upset, the salts attach en masse to the root node, plugging them up, and the plant gets nothing. Not only that, salts ‘burn’ the roots just like when you put salt on a snail. Too much of a good thing, I would say.

People’s lives are just like that, Skyler. When you are older you will meet people that have improper ratios. Some people will be incapable of their complete growth for lack of any nutrients. Some people have been given too much to absorb so they end up with nothing, none of the proper nutrients going into their hearts. I knew a woman once that had everything. In fact, she had so much of everything that it made her mad because even though she had so much, she was still the same miserable person she was before. You will meet those people, Sky, and nothing you will be able to do will make them happy. But you will also meet people that have barely anything—and are the happiest people on the planet.

Sky smiled to herself, feeling like one of those people.



Excerpt from Book #1 in Brandon’s Pursuit Series, release date Winter 2014:

Sky could visualize Dr. Merrill in class. When he was lecturing in the areas that were held by his passion, there could be a no more intellectual or more riveting equal. She had always been inspired by his lectures, always enthralled by the purity of his intent.

Ventura County Strawberry Festival Lady
Ventura County Strawberry Festival Lady

Plant communities and their health are the crucial elements of natural survival. Take the plight of the commercially produced strawberry. Driscoll Inc. has, as we speak, one hundred and eighty thousand acres of strawberry fields grown with one—and only one—variety of strawberry, fragaria var. This is called monoculture: note that, it will be on the midterm. The result in the case of predators, including fungus, insects, virus, and bacteria is that when any plant in the group gets infected, the rest of the population is not only susceptible, but likely to succumb. The grower has to overdose the fields with methyl bromide to combat crop devastation.

The purpose for plant communities is that different varieties exhibit different growing habits, harbor beneficial predators, attract a variety of pollinators—well, the list is almost endless. In the natural arena, speaking generally, one variety will house the insect or bacteria that will inhibit the pest of its neighbor. Another good neighbor may drop seedpods that can alter the local PH, stalling a bacterial infection. Perhaps more importantly, each member of the plant community occupies a different niche. In a natural habitat, you will have the arboreal members, the vining members, the low semiherbaceous shrubs, the taller woody shrubs, the annuals, the perennials, etc. Each member inhabits its own area of expertise in order to thrive. It is imperative for the habitat that each position be filled and functioning.

Human communities are no different. If all the members of the community have the same function, who will harbor the beneficials? If we have all annuals, what will the pollinators and predators do during the dormant season without perennials? Nature is, by design, a place for all different types of inhabitants. If a habitat shuns one of its natives, the community is out of balance and will eventually expire. I guarantee the concept of ’tolerance’ was not ever an issue in a natural situation. If you fulfill your niche in your own community, you will thrive and be a crucial contribution to the whole.

Branching Structure


Excerpt from Book #1 in Brandon’s Pursuit Series, release date Winter 2014:

Branching tree / OSU
Branching tree / OSU

Skyler was mesmerized by the motion as darkness fell. The encompassing green friendliness lulled her into her own comfortable space, a space that had been recently shaken into a questionable existence. She immersed herself in the comfort and beauty of her surroundings as her father’s voice penetrated her thoughts.

The deciding factors of a tree’s branching structure are both numerous and mysterious. Sunlight availability, the growth hormone and communicator auxin, as well as nutrients, genes, and sheer physics dictate branching geometry. Mathematics play a huge role in branching in that many species use the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci numbers to form branching structures, especially in the whorl forms.

Without the proper branching design, continuously adjusting to physical and environmental challenges, the tree not only cannot compete for sunlight, but will topple in the forest. An overabundance of foliage on one side will eventually succumb to gravity. When you grow up, Skyler, you must branch out in many directions in order to achieve balance in your life. Any branch too heavy in one direction will bring you down. If you do not branch at all, you will not receive the necessary nutrients to flourish.

I know that it is sometimes petrifying because you will most certainly fail. Humans unfortunately do not have the brilliant auxin as a guide. Well, in actuality we do, it is called a brain. However, humans have the misfortune of desires and ego, which perpetually cloud our branching strategies. If you do not branch, and branch well, you will sit on the forest floor and be stunted, never showing the true beauty of a perfectly balanced person. It takes much work, sapling, constantly stretching away from the known. But you must.

The Holdfast


Excerpt from Book #1 in Brandon’s Pursuit Series, release date Winter 2014:

Sea kelp tidepool
Sea kelp in a tide pool

Although not a plant per se, as there is no real root system, sea kelp is the perfect instrument of photosynthesis. Most people don’t know or care much about kelp species although many of the products they use on a daily basis, such as toothpaste and shampoo, are made with kelp ingredients.

In fact, most botanists are not even aware that kelp forests have both annual and perennial members. Nereocystis and Agarum display a very similar growing habit to your basic cyclical terrestrial forest.

Growing up to six inches a day under even the most strenuous of circumstances, kelp is the most sustainable organism on this planet.

The kelp’s most amazing attribute is the ‘holdfast.’ Not a root, mind you, a holdfast. Just because the root structure is not conventional doesn’t mean it is not superbly suited to its function.

Without your own ‘holdfast,’ Skyler, you will float away and get caught up with the torrents and predators of life. Due to circumstances beyond your control, you have no proper root structure. You must develop your own ‘holdfast’ — and it must be strong. Extremely strong.




Excerpt from Book #1 in Brandon’s Pursuit Series, release date Winter 2014:

Cineraria Flowers Pictures (16)Her father stooped over Cineraria stellata, a beautifully clustered flower, and offered a rare smile.

My old friend Dr. Wiseman at the University of Hertfordshire did a study on why people are deemed ‘lucky.’ He told me that among those people he tested, the ones who rated themselves as ‘lucky’ scored markedly higher in the area of extroversion. Their extroversion significantly increased the likelihood of having a lucky chance encounter.

‘Lucky’ people are more likely to notice chance opportunities, even when they are not expecting them. They are open to new experiences and like the notion of unpredictability.”

She giggled as any twelve-year-old girl would at the thought of this grumpy old man being an extrovert. She was even surprised that Dad had ‘an old friend’; he only occasionally socialized with botanical colleagues.

Father, why do you think of that when you are with the Cineraria?

Skyler, you are a perceptive little one. Our lovely stellata is the horticultural embodiment of the conceptual state of luck. She lives in clusters with her sisters, languishing sublimely in the under-story of large, shady protectors. She harbors copious collections of bright, small star shaped flowers, thus her name ‘stellata’, and has a free and easy growing habit.

When stellata has finished her mirthful display, her seed pods float away in a feathery shower to join the others wherever they have landed, in a sleepy respite secretly plotting to amaze the subsequent spring. The numerous clusters of flowers and resulting seed pods greatly increase her chances of successful replication in her environment. Her seed has many serendipitous opportunities to land in suitable locations and thrive.

She has every advantage to enhance her luck and is tenacious in her pursuit in order to thrive. It would be wise to apply her credo to our daily lives in the knowledge that luck is what we make it.



Excerpt from Book #1 in Brandon’s Pursuit Series, release date Winter 2014:

She had been walking through the Monterey pine and cypress forest, head bent, stooping to inspecting the soil. She remembered what her father had told her, Always remember to look up. She didn’t fully comprehend what he had meant; her nose was always to the grindstone.MontereyCypress- www.sbcatree.com

To her, the coastal pine forest in central California was an incredible place, almost holy—the soil a deep chocolate mélange of organic materials, a fusty rich womb of fundamental creation. She embraced every morning, dawning with perfectly descending sunlit fingers, toying with wisps of fog and ferns as they casually touched down upon a pristine landscape. It was as if the forest were immaculately tended by tiny invisible terrestrial gardeners.

The smell of the land, the soft indirect lighting and the slight chill in the air, even in the summer, had enticed her into her life’s path. She felt most at home in the arms of Mother Nature.

Living for the moment in that forest and remembering her father’s words, she did look up. She saw a grove of the structurally impressive Cupressus macrocarpa, the legendary Monterey Cypress, and marveled at its architecture.

She spied a spectacular 100-foot Pinus radiata—a Monterey Pine. This stately pine should have been extinct years ago and, as such, the species was riddled by countless insidious pests. Wood boring beetles, viruses, and a host of other denigrators had caused this large 150-year-old specimen to topple onto a lower sapling. The young tree lay at a 45-degree angle suppressed by the ancient, waning pine. The tip of the sapling was stubbornly raising its head up to the sky.

This scenario immediately brought Skyler’s memory back to that precious summer with her father long ago.

Every human strives to be upright whether they are aware of it or not. Even if he or she has had the worst possible situations descend upon them, forced to the ground, they will struggle to stay upright. Look around you in the forest child; you will see it happen over and over. You can see the young saplings leaning, stretching, and clamoring to find their place in the sun. When they get established in their own particular spot, they will reach for the sky in perfect harmony with the light, the earth, and in alignment with sheer gravity.

This is what you must do, my little sapling. Take the blows that have been dealt to you and use them to support your stature. The upright life that you lead will be a beacon for the rest of the forest.

She smiled softly. She would have given anything to have had more time with her father. She refused to allow herself to wallow.



thWe need to instill a different culture in the consumption of beverages. This change would start with one itty, bitty urge in the direction of conservation for restaurateurs and their patrons. Not to mention a cool branding. In the process, it could save billions of tons of petroleum based waste.

I give you – the straw. When did the straw become an absolutely essential appurtenance for every beverage? God gave us lips for crying out loud! Unless you are elderly, disabled, or a 2-year-old and are in need of a sippy cup, this utensil is superfluous.

Straws are made of plastic and yes, plastic is petroleum based, although we are making huge strides in other compostable bio-based eating accessories.

The reality is that only 27% of all plastics get recycled. The other 73% goes into landfills and particulate matter in the ocean.

The use of straws with beverages goes back to the Sumerians in 3000 BC. Straws were made of gold and lapiz and were presumably used to keep the settled matter at the bottom of home-brewed beer away from one’s palate. Modern day straws were patented by the creative and thirsty Marvin C. Stone, in 1888, whilst sipping a mint julep on his front porch on a hot day in Washington, DC. The straw of choice in those days was made from a type of rye grass. Although tremendously eco-friendly, Marvin did not care for the way it tainted his bourbon. He had the notion (after a few juleps I’m sure, as the most creative ideas appear at such auspicious moments) to take a strip of paper, wrap it around a pencil and apply glue, later perfecting his invention with wax.

Every beverage in most every corner bar and eatery provides you with a straw, even when one asks specifically for its deletion. Try it and you’ll see, even when you remind the well-intended server that you didn’t want a straw, they will take it out of your soda and throw it in the trash. When you order another drink, purposefully leaving the straw on your napkin to be used with the subsequent beverage, they will throw away the napkin and the straw, missing the point entirely.

Every restaurant, diner, bar, coffee house, and deli will insert a straw in your drink, happily toss it in the trash when you are finished, and provide you with a brand new tubular utensil with your next order even though you are drinking the same gin and tonic and possess the same lips.

This oral addiction has been totally engrained in the hospitality industry.

Paper straws are not common. They tend to get soggy, like the rye grass straw, especially with warm liquid. Take in point my Sikh friend who was in definite need of a straw for sipping his chai tea as his mustache and beard (the pruning of which is against his belief system) would coalesce foam remnants on his glorious grey facial cascade. The paper straw at Flora Grubb was a great and heartfelt concept but not exactly practical, not to mention the fact that they are not really earth-friendly either. They are derived from trees after all.

Sometimes a plastic straw is covered with a plastic sheath – both being discarded in regular trash (yikes, a double global assault!)

Let’s say you spend your afternoon at Starbucks on your laptop and drink three Caramel Machiattos, extra espresso, low-fat whatevers. Most patrons will garner three straws. Since it is the same beverage and you have the same mouth, harboring the same germs, wouldn’t it be environmentally prudent to remove the straw from your first oral orgasmic experience and re-use it for the rest of your laptop jabbing afternoon? After all, it has been marinated. Not to mention, straws give you upper lip lines, like those found on smokers’ faces.

Let’s also review the fact that straws are generally loaded by hand into a receptacle at the bar by the bar back, and then handled by the person making drinks. Now I’m sure that these fine servers wash their hands frequently, but…

This conceptual plea has been submitted to Starbucks. In fact, it went to the senior director of global policy who actually took it directly to the corporate Board of Directors in Seattle, a huge deal. As an author and conservationist, I was thrilled to even get that far. My profound disappointment ensued when the supposedly globally conscious Starbucks referred the issue to their internal ‘waste management’, also missing the point entirely…

And, let’s not forget the cost (both fiscally and environmentally) of manufacturing the straw, transporting the little culprits and the price of all that extra trash. Starbucks as well as all of our local dining establishments would not only look cool if they campaigned against straws, they would save tons of cash!

Are straws important for certain people like my Sikh friend and Stephen Hawking? Absolutely.

Are there millions of plastic straw particles swirling around in no less than five global garbage vortexes floating in our oceans? Yes.

Straws are occasionally appropriate. But, every day? With every beverage? For every person?

No way. We have got to get a collective grip!!!

How to contribute as a restaurateur:

We know it has been engrained in the industry, but perhaps an edict to not automatically insert that plastic culprit would be in order. Have your servers and bartenders have straws on hand, but trained to only give a straw upon request. 100% biodegradable bamboo stirrers are available for cocktails that need to be mixed. Maybe even print a small notice on your menu that says something resembling:

“In the interest of our environment and our passion to preserve it, this establishment endorses the conservation of our resources. We offer straws (a petroleum based product that is not recyclable or biodegradable) only upon request.

Thank you for your contribution for the health of our planet.”

At the Rio Grill in Carmel California, I did a small survey asking the fine patrons of Tony Tollner’s masterpiece restaurant if they would feel slighted if they were served a beverage without a straw. The unanimous vote was that they would not and would simply ask for one if need be.

How to contribute as a person who drinks beverages:

Simply ask for your beverage without a straw. Most times, you will get one anyway.

That is, until we start making a cultural change.

And right now, that’s all we’ve got – small stabs. But collectively, on a planet with billions of people, cultural changes could be the most influential.

One straw at a time.

Author and Conservationist, Brandon Wiggins