Spotlight: Kathy Puckett (Boojum)

By Nancy Polanski (nap) on June 28, 2010

Boojum, as she has always been known, is an expert on orchids. That's why I selected her to be in our Spotlight this week. She is the owner of An Orchid Obsession here on Cubits, which includes an ever growing Database. Whether you have orchids, or whether you don't, you will love the photos she publishes!

When I think of orchids, there is one name that comes to mind.  Boojum.  I don't grow orchids, but I very much love to photograph them.  I've admired her own photos of orchids for many years, so I decided to invite her come into the Spotlight.  I learned during our conversations that she has other talents as well as growing orchids, and a rather hectic schedule.  Or as she herself put it, "a diverse life."

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Nancy: I was just looking over the list of jobs you've held in your lifetime. ("Worked as art teacher in a camp/after school program, flute teacher, sang with my college choir and later in a small group, housecleaning business, professional artist, portraiture, head decorator of a custom tile mural company where I painted many murals that exist all over, receptionist for chiropractors, waitress at a Chinese restaurant, photography, etc." ) You hardly seem old enough to have had so many occupations.

Kathy: Formerly, I was a professional artist, but it’s been almost 20 years now since I started to pursue a new career. I am interested in helping people in transition, and in neurology, and I am interested in 2010-06-25/nap/5b57dehow people communicate. So it seems inevitable that I became a speech-language pathologist, encompassing all three of these interests.

I bring two distinct qualities to my practice. As a grandmother, I have a broad view of the life cycle. As an artist, I can't help but use creative ways to collaborate with my clients, caregivers, and teachers to achieve pragmatic solutions. Most of all, life experience has taught me that a "safe place" is a prescription for healing and growth, leading to the achievement of one’s potential ..2010-06-25/nap/d4fb1f.. Silliness helps, too!!

During my years in this career, I’ve worked with people of all ages who need support to communicate with others. It’s been fulfilling and fun getting to know my clients and to be a part of their growth.2010-06-25/nap/1bc189

I went back to school at the age of 42 and after six years got a Master of Science degree at the University of Arizona. I am fascinated by the human brain and wish I was a neurologist. I wanted to work with stroke survivors, but now work with teens with learning problems and autism.

I love batting teens around for a living. I make sure they feel safe and trust me, then I tell the truth, good and bad. I 2010-06-25/nap/dd06e7guess I give them what I wanted when I was a teen. I love when they come into their soph year and start understanding abstract language and concepts and start taking responsibility for their lives .... and start to think about things. It's great to witness. I like to empower teens because they feel so at the mercy during those years. I also feel responsible to stay curious and to keep learning so I can use the best practices with my clients. And I keep it light. As one of my students told me years ago,2010-06-25/nap/49c0cb “You make learning fun.” High praise from a teenager!!

(Oh! I also used to sell make up, do make overs and color analysis, then advise people about styles and colors for their wardrobes. I almost forgot about that career. I really helped people with self esteem in that business.)

As for the plusses and minuses of my jobs, I always do best if I'm autonomous. My own businesses are best. But I make a lot more steady money now than when I had more creative jobs.

Nancy:  You seem to have grown and changed quite a bit in many ways over your lifetime. Can you summarize for us just2010-06-25/nap/55813f who you are now?

Kathy: As a teen people thought I was a beatnik, then a hippie, now I don't know!! We'll have to ask others. I once visited a craniosacral therapist who said I was all passion. That sorta unifies my mess.
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I have two children, my son is the older, my daughter the younger.  My son has two boys whom I love and who live nearby.
My daughter is getting a doctorate. They are very good people and I am proud to be their mom and grandma!!!

I am a serious film buff, from Edison movies, silent movies (foreign and domestic), through 30s-60s, contemporary and Japanese anime (esp. Miyazaki).

I have a wonderful, supportive partner and he is my cook (yum) and my best, best friend.

I love amazingly good food and wine. I don't like to cook or entertain, but I do love a deep conversation that reveals our humanity.
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I love to travel. My favorite place I've been to is Rome, Italy. And by the way, I love Western Massachusetts!

As for pets, I have Society finches and my cocker spaniel whose name is Boojum.

I love poetry best but I also read tons of science, classic literature, and biographies/critiques. Usually heavy and technical reading.

Art has always been portraits, people, flowers, birds and scenes of Italy. I don't paint anymore, though. My garden is now my art.

I got a new DSLR thi2010-06-25/nap/56db57s year and I'm trying to get really good at it. I'm starting to take better pictures finally! Big learning curve!

I live in a converted double barn, which includes our professional offices, on three acres. It's an old dairy farm. I have at least 15 garden areas, including two very large areas, woods and a stream, stone walls, etc. It had some gardens that were neglected for six years, mostly bushes. I took out a lot of bushes because my emphasis in the garden is color combinations (colored sculpture changing over time).

I am an active member of my local Western New England Iris Society and grow/love beardless irises.

I often spend time around plants to understand a new environment I'm in. When I lived in Arizona, I visited the Tucson Botanical Gardens every 2010-06-25/nap/522e41Sunday to get a grip on the seasons. I found out spring was in Feb-March and summer started in April there. I froze in May when I got back to Massachusetts!!!

Nancy: You are pretty much synono2010-06-25/nap/295879mous with your Orchids. What got you so involved with them, Kathy?

Kathy: I started growing orchids five years ago to keep the winter blues away. I couldn't stand the garden season ending so I started growing orchids. I have up to 400 orchids and I own the orchid cubit, An Orchid Obsession, here on Cubits.

I started the orchid cubit because I could set it up to have all my orchid resources that I use constantly (photo database, online databases, pronunciations, abbreviations, videos on care, culture pages, etc.) at my fingertips on my home page. I couldn't 2010-06-25/nap/854378have done this on a generic garden website like Dave's Garden. I love how much I can tweak the basic cubit to become perfect for an orchid nut like myself. And having a programmer to help me achieve the best website that I can for orchid growers is so great! (a tip of the hat to Dave) I also included a fo2010-06-25/nap/69ace9rum for other plants so we can share our gardens and houseplants as well as our orchids. One of the reasons I love autonomy is because I don't get bogged down in beaurocracy and can create what I need easily and quickly. So my cubit is exactly what I would want to find as an orchid grower: great photo sharing, great company, in depth discussion, and great resources.  ~I'm a happy girl~

As to growing them, I started with a hard orchid and it just got worse. (Nancy: Read a detailed and interesting description of Kathy's orchid adventure on her Orchid Cubit intro.) I have some easy ones but I would be bored growing only easy orchids so I take on the challenges. The majority of my orchids are mounted, which means I mist 2010-06-25/nap/fc52efthem daily and deep water weekly. I fertilize every other week. Some love the water, some die from it. Every June 1st they all get put against the north side of a small barn for the summer, on shelves and tables. I use screen cloth in late afternoon to protect them from sunburn and a tarp to cover them from late rain. They do best when watered in the AM and dry at night. I also have a reverse osmosis water system and a warm and cool room in winter for them. Here's a video of me watering in my cool and warm rooms.

I have lots of collections of houseplants, too. Hoyas, amaryllis, epis, iris, cacti, succulents, passionflowers.

Nancy: Here's a left-field sort of question for you. If you could meet anyone in history, who would it be and why?

Kathy: Anyone in history?? Anyone who has moved me to tears (that's the why answer): Raphael, Bellini, Rembrandt, Shakespeare, Bach, Beethoven, Purcell, Vermeer, Klimt, Madame Curie, Kurosawa (my hero), Murnau, Satyajit Ray, Henry James, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Lee Wiley, Fred Astaire, Berenice Abbott, Stieglitz, anyone from The Group of Seven, Yasujiro Ozu, Tony Bui, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Lillian Gish, Katherine Hepburn, Verdi, Puccini, Emily Dickenson, Sergei Parajanov, Randall Jarrell, Marion Anderson, William Carlos Williams, Oliver Sachs, Robert Frost, anyone singing authentic international folk music. There are lots more, I'm sure.2010-06-28/nap/9f8bd6

Nancy: And finally, at the end of the day, what is it that really makes you the happiest?

Kathy: What makes me happy at the end of the day? 

A meaningful encounter with a fellow human being...... Hours of timeless moments in discovery of nature...... Beauty of any kind...... Listening to jazz, opera, Bach, or Beethoven, or Purcell, or women singing Balkan music...... A wonderful poem...... Films/books that surprise me...... A good belly laugh and silliness...... A new flower opening......... but NOT IN THAT ORDER!
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I believe we affect each other by being ourselves. Mostly, we have no idea what our influence is on others (usually not what we think). So it is extremely important to stay true to ourselves.

When I'm with my grandsons, I can feel the memories being made. It's so magical to be with them and be cognizant of how this moment will influence their whole lives at the same time that it's happening. Like being in the present and future at the same time. There's a strong feeling to it, too. A profound feeling. It's very cool.


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..... And I can't think of a better way to close our conversation with Boojum than with that powerful thought. My sincere thanks to you, Kathy, for sharing your life and your feelings with us. Now I hope you will come back often to answer any questions or comments that our readers may have for you.

Related articles:
art, biography, interview, orchids, painting, spotlight

About Nancy Polanski
My husband and I live in Buffalo NY with our cats Daisy and Lucy. I love Western New York and all it has to offer. Some fabulous people live here.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Wonderful kaglic Jul 5, 2010 8:07 AM 23
Wow- what a diverse life! Trish Jul 1, 2010 1:44 PM 1
Hi Boojum... Sharon Jun 29, 2010 12:39 PM 8
Amazing vic Jun 29, 2010 9:16 AM 2
Nice to know you better TwinLakesChef Jun 28, 2010 6:45 PM 9
Wonderful article! ctcarol Jun 28, 2010 12:31 PM 2
Great interview! PollyK Jun 28, 2010 12:15 PM 4
I really enjoyed reading this weeds Jun 28, 2010 12:08 PM 8
I would love.... AlohaHoya Jun 28, 2010 7:00 AM 1
Very nice interview Ursula Jun 28, 2010 6:37 AM 7

Who's Who Spotlight

Who's Who Spotlight articles feature personal interviews and photos of individual Cubits members, sharing with you their talents and expertise in a variety of areas and interests.

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