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Report From PIA – August 16

Yesterday on NPR I heard an interview with Elizabeth Dunn who studies consumer happiness for the University of British Columbia. She was talking about what made people happy, and commented, “Well, it turns out that one of the best things people can do is invest in experiences rather than in material things.”

I thought of this today when I welcomed a group of four women to my garden and home. One of these women won this visit and lunch in a charity auction, and it was important to me that they have an experience, not just a brief garden tour.

As we walked the grounds of Poison Ivy Acres, I explained my thinking in planning the gardens as I have. We talked about the joy of raising our own food, my husband’s commitment to recycling when building on this property, and our plans for the future. And of course, I raved about particular plants.

As a speaker who presents talks to many different groups, I believe that providing them with an experience, not just a talk about gardening or plants, is my primary goal. Making this charity donation an event for my guests was equally important today, but beyond my desire to give this delightful group of women a nice day out, I got to thinking about what goes into such encounters and why they’re important to us.

Experiences touch as many of our senses as possible. Think about people vacationing at the beach, and how they love the smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves and the feel of plunging into the water or napping on the sand.

I think that my guests today appreciated the look of a colorful, eclectically set table, the taste of a salad made from vegetables that were picked in the garden this morning, and the peaceful quiet of our property.

We’re all most likely to cherish events that touch our hearts as well. Honest, open conversations and the willingness to totally be our funny, vulnerable, human selves all create memorable interactions.

Knowing this, how can we cultivate such experiences for ourselves and others? Part of the criteria is going a bit beyond the norm. The fact that I took the time to set a multicolored table, using interesting linens and dishes, contributed to the ambience, for example. Other key elements are honest links with other people, and the aforementioned appealing to the senses.

Knowing this is useful in our businesses, relationships, and in structuring our personal day-to-day life. It’s worth asking ourselves where, in all of these instances, can we go beyond the expected, and create an experience?

A centerpiece of dahlias from the garden, a mix of colorful dishes, and a salad made from the garden provided much of today's experience. In the salad bowl is a bounty that included Black Cherry, Sungold, Green Zebra and Pink Ping Pong tomatoes, green beans, summer squash, broccoli, cucumbers, and basil from the garden, along with capers and hard-boiled eggs.

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