April 9, 2020

It’s Barren Before It Blossoms

Usually we hug each other immediately.
Me and my friend, Chris.

And we laugh far too much and irreverently (is that possible?) when together.

Except, this morning we had to do all of that at a distance.
A strange ritual dance we had to participate in, to protect each other.

We laughed a lot when I asked him how his angel-wife (that person whose presence makes life seem sweeter for all around her)
was coping with his enforced presence.
”Well, I have found that you can get used to being smacked around the head with a spade…
…when it happens daily.”
And he shrugged his shoulders and tried to sigh.

(Larf? We nearly died!)

Was it Chris who once reminded me:
”If you’ve never had a teenager tell you how much they hate your very existence…
… you’ve almost certainly never had children!”?

Ain’t that the truth.

The memory of me cursing my Mum, through my gritted teeth, is crystal clear.
That was the first day she made me water the billowing white carpet of alyssum in our back garden with Baby Bio.
Except we couldn’t afford a watering can.
So I was armed with a large jam jar… and had to sprinkle the precious liquid carefully through my fingers.

Anne, the-lovely-girl-next-door, who I desperately wanted to impress…
let me know that she saw the funny side of my plight.

For the next few decades I hated gardening even more than i’d hated my beautiful, achingly-patient, ever-wise Mum.
Much more.

Until I didn’t.
Until I was teachable.
Until I started to learn some profound lessons about Life…
While creating something of breathless beauty.

So, in this time of confusion and uncertainty…
In this era of Principles-We’re-Being-Forced-To-(Re)Learn…

…allow me to share one or two of those lessons.
Lessons that are helping me keep my balance during these unaccustomed days.

Lesson #1
You’re Not In Control.
You never have been.

Working nose-to-soil with Nature – with nurturing Mother Earth – teaches you that there are immutable laws and principles and rhythms that govern her existence.
And yours.

Work against those… and you’ll gain some short term victories.
Push for Instant Results and Gratification and Achievements….
You’ll have your own way.
For a while.
You’ll serve your wilfulness and self-interest.
For a short season.

But, sooner or later, Nature, Life, The Force (whatever your reference) will deliver you a resounding and massive and sometimes-devastating smack.
The likes of which you’ll never forget.
And possibly never recover from.

Meanwhile, this microscopic being – this tiny intelligence, this Virus – which we have given a name and a number…
is just such a Massive Smack.

YOU (with all that you think you know)
…are definitely not in control!

Lesson #2
There Are Reasons We’re Brought to Our Knees

There is something almost reverent when I’m forced to kneel to do what-needs-to-be-done in my Bee-and-Butterfly Garden.
No matter how sophisticated the gardening tools available.

If you’re going to gasp at the soothing wonder of the next season…
Then tending and nurturing and digging and weeding and planting…
requires humbly getting-down-to-it.

Our haughtiness and intellect and technology won’t cope.
We kneel.
And there we learn what other living organisms are waiting to teach us.

I’ve learned so much during these last few weeks of supposed-isolation.

I’ve learned more about Being A Student of My Wife and My Family.
Studying them carefully, so that I can spot the myriad tiny things that can bring them small moments of joy.

Then making those “tiny things” come true.

I’ve learned that Wendy and I can plead together better, and more tearfully, than separately.
That we can more vocally pray for those we love; for those we’ve chosen to serve.
For friends and neighbours who – previously – were merely “Out there, around us, available whenever we were bothered”.

But – because we’re learning to care more – those sacred moments are spent…
on our knees.

Lesson #3
Relationships Have Greater Value Than Stunning Achievement

My Teacher-Garden is a living being.
Nothing I can fashion or shape will work unless I first respect and revere my relationship with it.

When I choose to destroy a life-form, because they “chew up my lupins, darn them!”
I learn, within months, that each life-form is part of a relationship with those lives that make my world more beautiful and healing.
”Eco-System”, I think you’d call it.

As in my garden.
So in Life.
So in business.

Nothing that I will ever achieve.
No monumental project; no breakthrough invention; no towering measurement.
Nothing will have a more long-lasting impact on humanity than the tending of each relationship within my sphere of influence.

If we see our business as a ‘Conduit’ (through which powerful forces can flow)…
Then, every meaningful thing that the conduit of my business delivers…
Will be founded on the quality and depth of the relationships I build first.

Lives are broken when we forget that.
And mended when we make that a priority.

This strange time – when we’re pushed closer together – is pushing that principle right into our face.

Again, let me not minimise the seriousness (and painfulness) of what our nation – our world – is experiencing.
Many are being pushed to the brink of their endurance and capability.
And beyond.

However, we are being made to think through our lives – our treatment of each other – more carefully right now.

Like Nelson Mandela’s 27 years of comparative isolation on Robben Island…
… growth… understanding… beauteous wisdom… even goodness…

Can grow and blossom out of what now seems like barren soil.