Sunday, March 30, 2008

play more think less

Let me see if I can get some actual content out here, for crying out loud.

It's tough, because chattering away in the background of my mental landscape is the voice of my inner GrandListMaker. At present, she is chanting the To-Do list in a deep whisper. Usually putting pen to paper and writing the list down instead of trying to hold it all in my head will quiet the voice, but not so this time. I just returned from a trip, and there are a myriad of tasks that must be completed before I head out the door for the next trip at the end of the week. I also have a slew of appointments over the next four days.
My plan??
Stay up late every night this week getting it all done, and then pass out on the plane.

Meanwhile, here at the blog, I have a few important things I want to record, so I am just going to need to find the time. Let me start with an A-Ha!Moment I had yesterday.

Yesterday I went to "Get Growing: Gardening for Everyone," hosted by the Napa Valley Master Garderners. It was a day long event full of hands on demonstrations and classes, free to the public if you registered early (which I was somehow organized enough to do). I went by myself, and had signed up for classes about family vegetable gardening, sustainable weed management, and fruit trees.

Now, I am NOT a gardener. I would like to BE a gardener, but my current status is one of SheWhoOftenForgetsSheHasHousePlants. In my lifetime, I have even killed cacti. Plural.

But I want to grow food. I am a trained chef, and a Raw Living Foods enthusiast. I have deep appreciation for what comes out of the earth, and I would love nothing more to produce food from my own garden and eat it. Even though I have no idea how to do it.

I am about to install some food producing raised beds in the yard here in a couple of weeks. And I have no friggin' idea what I am doing. Seriously.

Anyhow, back to the A-Ha!Moment. So I went to this master gardening event yesterday, and I wasn't but two minutes past the registration table and into the quad area where the demos were being held, and I started hyperventilating. The more I walked around, the worse it got. In my own typical twisted way, I determined that nobody else there was a novice gardener. I tried to stop freaking out by reading a few of the presentation boards posted about and the gardening-speak made me feel like I was in a foreign land. I was pretty sure at that moment that I had made a huge mistake by being there, so I breezed past all of the demos and parked myself in a lecture hall to wait for the keynote speaker that was going to open the event.

The guy was totally cool. He talked about mystical moments as a child in a neighbor's garden, and while I didn't have stories of my own like that about gardens, I do have those about food, and I became a chef, in the same way this guy had come to make his passion his career. So there I was, breathing again and enjoying his speech, and then he said something about some seedlings he had planted a few weeks earlier. He watered them and came back the next day and they had gotten moldy, so he had to toss them and start over.

And my heart started pounding again, and it was beginning to feel a little warm. The more he talked the more I realized I was about to make a brain connection if I could just make it through the day.

After the keynote speech, I had a bit of time to kill before my first class, so I decided to try to brave one of the demo tables and maybe talk to someone. I went to learn about propogation, and besides still believing that a foreign language was being spoken, the demonstrator had a thick European accent. So now I was certain. Anyway, he was showing this little girl of about 9 years old and her mom how to snip a branch of sage and turn it into several tiny sage plants she could allow to grow roots and then plant in her own garden. I watched the whole thing over her shoulder. He snipped, they dipped it in some magical powder and potted it. The little girl was happy, and was about to walk away at that moment and the demonstrator say, "Oh no! We need to do more! For the failure! It will fail! You must take at least two. Better three or four."

This is where my head started to explode.
Failure. FAILURE.
My heart started racing again, I felt faint, and I actually wondered if I had packed any anti-anxiety meds along to a gardening event...and meanwhile the guy is saying the word failure over and over in his crazy accent....and I was trying to understand how anything could have a fifty-percent failure rate built into it and even be remotely enjoyable...and it was then that I had the A-Ha!Moment.

Dudes, I have been avoiding gardening my whole life because of my fear of failure.

I could write volumes about how fearing failure developed in me, and all of the wild places it has brought me in my 41 years, but that's not where I'm going here. I could write about how many things I have never tried to do because I knew I couldn't do it perfectly, also....but that's not where I'm going either.

So back to the event. I left that table to go find a corner to contemplate in, and almost ran over the keynote speaker trying to get there. So I talked to him. He was still totally cool, and for some reason I blurted out what I had just learned about myself. He chuckled a bit and talked to me about all of the things a garden would teach me. Then he said, "just get out there and muck it up."

I spent the rest of the day in between classes talking to experienced garden folk and asking them to play therapy session with me (not literally, but...ya' know). Every single one of them had a story about something that hadn't worked just recently. Every single one of them chalked it up to being part of the process, and I have to's not a concept that sits well with my emotional and/or nervous systems...but I do understand it logically.
And I'm willing to give it a whirl.
I'm willing to just get in there and get dirty.
I'm willing to learn from my mistakes.
I'm willing to not be perfect.

I'd like to at least pull one edible salad out of my yard this year, though LOL.
But I am willing to screw up and not have it be anxiety producing.
This is a big deal.

Heres' the funny thing though. While I was busy finding people to talk with about garden failures, several other people came up to me to tell me that they liked my shirt:

Funny how I can apply that to other things in my life like dancing and kitchen experiments, but not to others. I really need to learn to spread it around ;-)


Mouse said...

Great post! I totally understand where you're coming from.. the whole concept of 'planning' for that sort of 'failure' just messes with my sense of all that is good and right in the world as well. Munchkin and I have plans to start a "deck garden" with some herbs & more tomato plants (this year we're going to use bug netting so the beetles don't eat them) as soon as it gets warmer.

idyllicchick said...

Growing plants is a lot like knitting. If it doesn't work out the first time, you just do it again, making adjustments along the way. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries, but in the end you always end up with something that you or someone else will love.

Helen said...

Gardening is a joy, and even the failures, which will happen, normally with the things you really don't want to fail, can be illuminating. The successes in the meantime, far outweigh the ones that don't make it. I have things in my garden that there is NO WAY they should survive, but which are positively thriving. That makes up for the losses. Get out and enjoy the earth under your nails. There is nothing like watching something you have planted grow and flourish. If you can then eat it, even better!!!

JohnK said...

There really isn't "failure" in gardening, just process. So yes, play more and think less and laugh when a woodchuck tramples through your garden at it's height and ruins everything. grrrrr.

I will be more zen about it this year as soon as it gets warm enough to start.

Kim Ayres said...

failure in the general sense doesn't tend to bother me now. It used to, but then when I was self employed I had to make several big decisions every day. Over time I discovered everything that didn't work was a lesson learned, even if it was an unpleasant and embarrassing one. But very few mistakes were ever so vital that I had to consider changing my identity and leaving the country.

Most of it is about learning that after you've made a choice, new choices open up - rarely is anything you chose to do the final word.

Failure isn't making mistakes or getting it wrong.

Failure is not trying because your fear of failure is too big.

It's great when we get those aha moments :)

Ragnar said...

It sounds like gardening is just what you need! I always remind myself that gardens are made of plants, and that plants grow outside by themselves all the time, with no help from me. I have a rather standoffish approach to gardening, and even so I manage to eek out a tomato now and then.

Also, you can eat most weeds, so even if your garden is full of dandilions and purslain you can still have a salad.

Check out the book "how to grow more vegitables than you ever imagined in less space than you thought possible." It's very interesting and it sounds like you have a smaller space to work with.

Hurray for self-discovery.

(formerly) no-blog-rachel said...

I've been gardening for over 20 years and still have plenty of 'failures'. And because plants like different things, some years will be great tomatoes but not so great for peppers, and the next year your peppers will go crazy producing but your zucchini won't be happy. It's really no big deal!

One book I highly recommend is Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew - it show you how to grow a lot in a small space, saving resources and time, and also how to create a garden that won't overwhelm you.

The other thing I'd recommend (actually more than anything) - DON'T go for synthetic fertilizers of any kind - Miracle-you-know-what or anything. Your plants will be green but their root systems will be shallow and your plants unhealthy, which will attract non-beneficial pests. Get a bag of good compost (or do what I do - after you build those raised beds, fill 'em with compost instead of dirt) and use that instead. Your plants and body will be much happier for it!

I'm happy to help long distance any time - seriously. Gardening is a huge part of my life; even my tattoo is all about gardening (and not knitting - can you believe it?).

The Bon said...

If your neighborhood has a lot of cats, make sure you cat-proof your beds (most frequently, you do this by using something like chicken wire under the top layer of dirt so they can't dig holes to cover their waste). You certainly don't want to eat litterbox vegetables!

Carrie said...

That is a very good post. We should all be willing to take more chances at failure. My husband wants to put in a hydroponic garden this year, and I have no idea how we'll do that. No knowledge! =) I'm a houseplant killer from way back, but it might be fun. The willingness to fail had to be overcome for me to start spinning, too, but I love it, now.

Anonymous said...

I started gardening last year, and it definitely has it's ups and downs. However, I like doing it because I like watching things grow. If some wonderful delicious food comes out of it, even better! I figure I'll learn a few things along the way and hopefully be able to do more next year.

I also recommend reading square foot garden (or search for some examples on the web). I haven't tried it yet, but it seems to be a great way to get started. Especially if you are going to be building beds anyway.

Warrior Knitter said...

To me that's what's cool about gardening. Every year you get another chance. And depending on what you're trying to grow, you may even get SEVERAL chances.

And I love your shirt!

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of the words of Ms. Frizzle, the teacher on the PBS kids' show The Magic Schoolbus:

"Take chances!
"Get messy!
"Make mistakes!"

Goodness, how else are we supposed to learn anything?