Waiting for seeds to grow

"Green Thumb" by Yelena Bryksenkova

 

A few weeks back, I was obsessed with growing my own herbs.

You should have seen me – I was way into it. I love herbs and while I buy mine at the supermarket when a recipe calls for them occasionally, the thought of growing it myself never really occurred to me. That was until I caught episodes of Jamie Oliver doing his 30-minute meals. I have to say; watching him going about in the kitchen, snip-snip-sniping away at his herbs whenever he needs them really just flipped a light bulb in me – not only did he inspire me to take more initiatives to cook more, he made me interested in creating my very own herb garden. Watching that show also made me feel like I could do anything at all too, if I maintained a sense of fun and curiosity about it. I’m hoping one of these days to do a full vegetable patch, but with two jack russell terriers tearing around my garden, it doesn’t seem likely that it will happen very soon!

So I had Mr. T buy big packs of potting soil (because using the rather unfriendly looking reddish-clay earth we had in the backyard yielded poor results too many times to be a coincidence), and we had plastic cups all ready to go for germinating. I bought seeds of herbs that I liked – and as with anything I start, I did it with gusto.

After I sprinkled over my seeds of sweet marjoram, dill, rosemary and sage – all in individual pots – and stuck ice-cream sticks with the plant’s name on a washi-tape (because markers on wood looks icky when it gets hit by water). I gave myself a pat on the back and stood back to marvel at my handiwork. Hurrah! Then the waiting began. I watered them everyday, and looked at them in the morning, and once again in the evening. Nothing. All that stared back at me was black soil. I had hoped for a glimmer of green to peek through. Nada.

I waited and lowered my expectations. I peeked in nonchalantly (and yet hopeful) for a week before I spotted something popping out from the fresh ground. YAY! A quick glance over my other 3 pots of herbs however, signaled a nay. Maybe they weren’t  ready to come out just yet? Maybe I got some bad seeds? Maybe the ants got to them in the middle of the night. Or slugs munched on them maybe? I don’t know. All I know was that my web browser history is ridden with gardening vocabulary, of the amateur sort, trying to figure out what went wrong.

Which got me to thinking. Creating anything – work, art, writing, etc – is almost like growing your own little garden. The same goes for businesses too.

You can sprinkle your seeds of imagination and ideas and be careful about them – judiciously watering them, feeding them, talking to them – but sometimes they don’t turn out the way you want them to. Which is why you spread them all around, in different pots, in different forms: through seeds, new cuttings, or the bulb of an old sprout. Some may take root and grow upwards, strong and tall. Others don’t take, and ends before they begins. Some grow new shoots, only to be eaten by a passer-by snail; leaving only the barest of signs of being grisly eradicated before it could fully form.

Creating anything – work, art, writing, etc – is almost like growing your own little garden.

And once you get these seeds on the ground, all you can do is wait. And water them. And wait again. And this process repeats itself as it grows; needing a complex combination of efforts to not only keep it stable, but to allow it to thrive and bear fruit.

It’s a nod to the universe in so many parallel ways – your labor of love is as complex, and yet while you can control a big portion of it, the rest is up to fate. One hopes for the best, and yet prepares for the worst. It’s a little dance in which you won’t know how it all will turn out; but one thing’s for sure: if you keep those seeds hidden, locking them away from soil and sunshine – you’ll never know how it all turns out.

So toss your seeds – your ideas, imagination and creativity – into the ground. Let them take hold and burst through the ground fresh and alive with hope. And what if it doesn’t turn out? Well, then it’s time to plant new ones.

Just remember to add water and love. And watch out for those sneaky slugs.

P/S: Here’s my dill (the only one out of four herbs that made it!) I’m replanting new seeds – and this time I’ll know what to watch out for.

My dill plant!

[Illustration: “Green Thumb” by Yelena Bryksenkova via What You Sow – an excellent online shop for all lovely gardening related things.]

Our 2014 artists & illustrators survey results are out!

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So you might notice that I’ve been a little quiet this week. It’s for a good reason – I’ve been busy putting together the data collected during the last survey (it’s the one that touched on money and income!) into a handy 32-page PDF that’s available for all to download.

I wrote down a few caveats for those who are interested in the results of the survey: the problems that went into it, and how I should have made it better. Some of the entries had to be discarded/disqualified due to technical errors, and while I was disappointed with that, I’ve learned to take this experience forward and have learnt how to avoid repeating the mistakes I’ve made the next time round. It was the first time I did such a survey and through your comments and suggestions, I learned a lot – so a big thank you to all of you who participated (and to those who chose not to, and wrote to me to tell me why!)

So without further ado, you can click on the below image to kickstart the process of downloading the survey! And remember, I’m always learning, so don’t hesitate to write to me if you have any suggestions or advice to share.  

 

Have a great weekend folks, and I’ll catch up with you next week!

When you’re not where you want to be

Pulling a Plant - Eleanor Taylor

The thought about being a landscape architect never once crossed my mind as I was growing up.

I didn’t spend my younger days thinking about how great it could be if I could be one – to spend my time designing gardens, parks and pockets of greens; carrying T-squares, measuring tape, wearing a hardhat and safety boot and all. So what made me write that down when it came to choosing what I wanted to do in university?

It was simple – I didn’t want to be stuck in a lab doing experiments (that’s all I thought scientists-to-be did back then). And I didn’t want to spend my time purely in lecture halls hashing out theories and being spoon-fed formulas. I wanted to learn about art and design, and that course was my one and only ticket.

Oh sure, I could hear you ask – why not just go to a college where you can pay to learn exactly what you want? I got an entry into the local university; and where I come from, to get that was as good as if you had struck lottery. The price of a degree at a private college could cost up to 10 times more than it did at a local university. I wasn’t about to go in debt by choosing to go to a private college, and I didn’t want to let my parents worry about funding expensive tuition fees only to get a piece of paper I might not end up using in the end (I was being realistic).

So I chose the best route to go about it. I knew I liked art and design – and if I were to chose a course within that university, the only one that was available to me was landscape architecture. I could learn about the fundamentals of art and design in a studio environment, I had access to art teachers and designers, I had more flexibility in how I scheduled things (studio-based classes meant that you had plenty of time to experiment with ideas); and I didn’t have to worry about money so much. I told myself I would figure out the rest later.

Four years later, when it came to deciding what I wanted to do after I graduated, I gave myself 6 months – it was when we had to be an intern at a real consultancy firm. The rules I gave myself were simple: give it my best shot, and if I still didn’t feel that it suited me, then I’m free to do whatever that I wanted. Six months passed – the boss’ firm passed me with flying colours and told others that I was one of the best interns he’s ever worked with. I left, happy.

It was also the last time I was a landscape architect.

“Why did you give up your degree?” was the common question I had in that first year after I graduated. “It was four years – all wasted, down the drain,” said others. Even my father was at a loss – he couldn’t understand why I would give up being a landscape architect. I could have a good job, a stable career. A title. I could be a professional. I could be Amy Ng, the Landscape Architect. I didn’t blame them at all – they didn’t know why I did it.

But I did.

Because when I went into the university to do a course on landscape architecture, I wasn’t looking to just be a landscape architect. I was looking to learn. I absorbed everything like a sponge – even the stuff that people didn’t care about. I inhaled snippets of knowledge and sniffed it out whenever I could. Lecturers were held hostage as I left them a barrage of questions. Little wonder that when it came time to decide to narrow down a focus for my final project, I went with campus design. I loved learning that much.

I went to the library often. I didn’t just go there to scoop up the latest architecture tomes – I went in to borrow books on art, illustration, cooking, exercise, writing and technology; all because I was curious. I maxed out my book limit every time because I there were so many things I wanted to know. I didn’t know where all of this digging would lead me, but I knew that deciding on a destination just because I was handed a ticket seemed silly.

Instead, I wanted to make my own fate. I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. And when I look at myself right now I’m still figuring it out – just like everyone else. I try hard to not confine myself to anyone else’s definition of success, and to stay true to myself by constantly asking myself what I want. Being happy was always my goal – and I’ve been incredibly lucky on that front. Somedays I still pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming.

So for those who feel as though they’ve been handed a curveball in life, or that they aren’t in the place that they want to be – I want to tell you this: you can’t control the cards you’ve been dealt, but you sure can change how you choose to deal with it.

Oh, and no one ever asks me about that degree anymore.

SHARE WITH ME:

Have you ever been in a less than ideal situation? How did you make the best of it? Share your story with me below in the comments! 

** NOTE: This post isn’t mean to discourage people to not go to private university or art school – I think that if you can then it’s great, but more importantly, for whatever reason at all that you can’t, it shouldn’t be the excuse that you use to not be able to get ahead. My experience and my views are strictly personal –  being where I am (Malaysia), this is how I chose to deal with my lot, so it bears repeating that my challenges may be different from yours. 

[Illustration by Eleanor Taylor]
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