Why the best projects aren’t always paid work.

I’ve been in design long enough to know that the projects you want to do aren’t necessarily the ones that walk in the door. But I’ve never really been confident enough to just do what I wanted to do without thinking it an extravagant use of time I couldn’t afford. Now I am. I’m learning to focus on doing the projects that make me happy. Happy, because I love the questions they allow me to ponder. Happy, because they allow me to focus on what might make another person happy. Happy, because they don’t necessarily have a purpose other than to be done. 

From Garden Story

Thinking about the upcoming new year, I was searching for a project that would celebrate one of the things I’m most looking forward to…getting back into my vegetable garden. I’ve had a garden in my backyard off and on over the two decades of living in our house. While the garden has provided its pleasant moments over the years, more often than not, maintaining it has felt like work. That all changed in 2020, as I was trying to process lots of thoughts while managing life complicated by a pandemic. That year, I dug out and rediscovered my long neglected garden. I repaired the cedar raised beds that I had built years ago. Much of the wood, to my great surprise, was in pretty good shape. I pulled the overgrown weeds and laid down cardboard from moving boxes that had been taking up space in the garage for way too long. This, I covered with a thick layer of wood mulch. I amended the existing soil. Around mid-May, I began transplanting the seedlings that I had grown inside on the back porch. 

And then everything I remembered about the garden and gardening all changed for me. Maybe being older played a role in this, maybe it was just all that was going on, who knows, but my whole perspective of what I wanted, and what I wanted to do was different. I started paying attention to being in the garden, my garden, as more of an experience than just something on my list of things to do. Tending to my garden became ritual – something I looked forward to in starting my day. I was no longer just gardening. I wanted to be in my garden. I looked forward to hand watering all the plants with my cheap, green plastic watering can. The one with the funky cap that I had to hold just right to ensure that the water dribbled where I wanted it to go. An old sweat-stained baseball cap became my gardening hat. Kel started playfully calling me “Farmer Chris.” I laughed at the sound of that. But you know what, I liked being Farmer Chris. I think that garden and the calm it provided was something I really needed but didn’t know it. 

Last year, I expanded the garden a bit. I added a few things but decided “not those zucchini, they just tend to go crazy.” Maybe this year. I started paying closer attention to the plants. I noticed that those little yellow tomatoes sure were taking their sweet time in joining the show. I took my first steps into seed saving. Kel gave me a slightly larger harvest basket. When the season ended too soon, I started looking forward to this year.

To Personal Project

I began this story writing about doing the design projects that I want, regardless of why. In looking forward to spring, I can’t wait to get back into my garden. To say the garden brings me joy, understates all the benefits it provides. I want in a small way to help others to experience their own version of this too. So, I decided to create a little, beginners herb garden kit.

Something simple, made with thoughtfulness and care. Something that might help a few others to begin. A ripple of positivity. 

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