A little bit wooooo……

This week I’ve had a bit of an epiphany.

(I’m not sure if you can have ‘a bit’ of an epiphany, but I’m uncomfortable with owning up to the full blown fireworks, cannons, balloons type experience so I’m sticking with ‘a bit’.)

This course I’m doing…. You know the one. The full on, crazy, more work than I’ve done before in my life, ever, course – that is supposed to be teaching me how to be a garden designer. Well it isn’t what I thought it was after all.

I thought I was signing up to fill in the gaps in my knowledge about garden design. I thought I knew quite a lot already and all it would take was a bit of time spent on the technical stuff, the hard landscaping, the plant info, the nuts and bolts, and I’d be up and running. Which just goes to show how little I really knew.

Because it’s about so much more….

This course is about how to look at the world in a different way from the way I’ve been doing for the past fifty five years. It’s about understanding that anybody can learn the basics, the life skills; how to walk, talk, read, write; how to construct a terrace, a brick wall, a pergola. These are the essential skills without which we can’t do a good job. But in order to be the best designers we can possibly be we have to challenge ourselves, open ourselves up to things we haven’t considered before, put ourselves into places and positions that don’t necessarily feel very comfortable. And that is really hard.

There are eighteen people on this course and every one of us brings a completely different set of skills and experience and attitudes. We all have the things we like to do, the things we feel comfortable with. And we all have the things we don’t like doing, the things we shy away from, the things we find difficult. But if we just stick with what we know, what we feel comfortable with, we don’t learn, we don’t change, we don’t grow. And this is a huge opportunity we’ve all been given. Because we’ve been given the chance to look at life with new eyes. And that doesn’t happen very often.

It’s been the Concept Garden Project that really brought this home to me.  As soon as we were set the project at the start of term I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And I got on with it. But even though I really enjoyed doing it, in my heart I was frustrated by it. I knew that it wasn’t what I wanted it to be. So I just told myself that in the real world I would never do this kind of stuff, and while it was fun to have a go it really didn’t matter that much.

Well you know what, it does matter.

This week we spent a day with Claire revisiting our concepts, pulling them apart and considering how we might do them differently. And that’s when I had my moment. Because I realised that what I inevitably do when I’m set a challenge, not just on this course but in life,  is take hold of it and rush towards the solution. And I’m a bit smug about it. Because I know where I’m going, don’t you…. I like to be the person who knows the answers.

But there’s a problem with this. Because what happens is that I miss things on the way; important things, challenging things, things I wouldn’t usually consider, things that might be better than the solution I’ve leapt at.

And this reminded me of something a friend gave me to read a while ago. It’s called ‘Mind the Gap’.

There are times in life when the way we used to do things (and the things we did), or the way we used to be, just doesn’t suit us any longer.

Things may look the same from the outside, but on the inside something has changed, we know things cannot carry on in the same way.

And yet we may not know, precisely or at all, what we want, what we are supposed to do, what new direction to take.

This experience feels like a gap.

Many people react to this gap in two ways (we don’t like gaps really, we like it all packed and planned): They try to ignore it (for as long as they can), and hang on to what they know. Or they go into super activity, finding a new direction at any cost, and working like mad to get to it (and often find themselves years later in the same situation).

But that gap has the most amazing energy in it. Really. Everything is in potential there.
It is actually an incredible space to be in.

Thank goodness for the moment when you don’t know what to do, because it means that many possible new directions are available to you from this space. The gap can be very exciting and even relaxing…This is meant to be a place where you don’t have to know or do anything. You can let your brain go fuzzy (like a child) and let inspiration take over.

So, please don’t mind the gap. Let yourself experience its energy, make the most of it, cherish it, even look forward to it.

We experience many of those in life, big and small.

If you allow yourself to relax in that space, and let it do its work, you’ll know when the time to do something is back again. But this time you’ll be doing something new.

When I showed this post to my editor (aka my husband Graham) he thought it was a little bit wooooooooooo…..

But then I’m a little bit wooooooo…..

There’s always another hill to climb….

Doing this course at KLC is very much like trekking to Base Camp.

You’re climbing a very steep hill, you’ve got your eyes fixed on the top, it looks a very long way off, you try to find the best way up, you wonder if you’re going to make it…. Finally, out of breath and ready to drop, you get to the top.

Oh look, it’s not the top after all. There’s a whole other hill to climb…..

We thought the Planting Combinations File was the killer. But our latest project, the Concept Garden Project is showing some teeth. It was set on our first day back after Easter. We’ve been given two weeks to complete it, with the presentation of our plans on the day after the Bank Holiday weekend.

Piece of cake, I thought. (I’d already got my idea, been thinking about it for ages.) My theme is hypoxia, the reason for the Xtreme Everest 2 trek to Base Camp. I knew what I wanted the garden to look like, did a rough sketch in a matter of hours. All I had to do was complete the plan, render it, write a plant list, do a quick measured perspective drawing (which we had learnt how to do with Claire last term), and write the brief. I started straight away and reckoned it should be done in a couple of days. And it was really important that it was done in a couple of days…..

Because I was going to Majorca. In fact I’m there right now….

The view from where I'm sitting....
The view from where I’m sitting….

Graham and I had planned this trip months ago. A few days together at our house in Majorca was just what we would need after his treatment at the London Clinic and my trek in the Himalayas. And it was early in the summer term so hopefully I would be deadline free and just starting out on any projects. So I could take some reading with me. Maybe do a bit of sketching…..


My big mistake was coming up with a garden design based on a spiral. Do you have any idea how ******** difficult it is to draw an accurate design based on a spiral? Well I didn’t when I started out. But I do now….

And a perspective drawing when there are no straight lines and the curves go vertically as well as horizontally……


So yesterday saw me at Gatwick Airport with my satchel as hand baggage, completely weighed down with drafting equipment (I’d have packed my drawing board if I could have fitted it in.) And it’s another watch this space moment…..

Will she make it to the top of the hill? Will there be another hill waiting for her when and if she gets there?

Stay tuned…..