As this post is longer than normal, I'll start it by noting that its contents link the recent nature gone wild; the social movement; new forms of emerging leadership; the might, time, effort, and love it takes to move the entrenched; 2012; and the beauty that will be sure to follow, to those who let it come to them with peaceful determination.
I have often written about -- and experienced to a profound extent -- the concept of "Leaders at Every Level." I believe it is the way of the future. It is undeniable. It is a great change that has come, in part, from the level of education, reach, and technology that we have now in the world. The days of simply telling our workers what to do, and having leadership and decisions be in the hands of the corner office, alone, are gone.
What does all this mean?
My journey since leaving the world of "big business" about six months ago has taken me by surprise. I found myself spending endless hours in a massive garden I had started months earlier on common land in my neighborhood. It was was a far greater draw to me than my prior world -- which, thanks to the social web I had become so fully entrenched in, was still there for me, just a keystroke away.
When nature froze over my garden come November, I was hopeful that I would again yearn to return to my prior world of connected-go-go. Instead, I found amazing joy in playing with my family. Skiing, skating, building fires, and hosting large family gatherings.
This was ever more curious as business inquiries kept coming my way, and I have a coach fully paid for and available to me, and yet I have hardly taken advantage of this. "Why?," I wondered in my dreams.
A quote I heard a long time ago brought me some peace of mind:
"Sometimes, you have to stop "go-going toward your goals and simply lie down, be peaceful, and let it come to you."
This quote has become my solace.
Today, at the school bus stop with my kids, a neighbor said to me,
"You know you have a giant heart on your roof."
"What?" I replied.
"My daughter Kaitlin, saw it this morning. Come. Look."
Back To My Journey; and My Garden.
I started this massive garden project in the fall of 2009. I had been attempting to plant some beauty on a hillside of weeds that faced my house for years. At last, I came to the conclusion that I had to "simply" remove the weeds and get to loose earth in order to plant the new beauty. I thought it would take me about a day. Wrong.
I spent each weekend, at 6-8 hours a day, and most every workday morning for months digging down to what seemed like China to remove the roots of the weeds. The weeds were dense, tight, and fully entwined. Some were as thick as telecom cables -- 2 to 3 inches in diameter -- and stretched as long as 12 or more feet under and across the earth. When I uprooted these, I felt like a great game killer and hung them on a fence to show off my "kill."
What does Gardening Have to Do with Leadership and the Social Movement?
I thought, during these days of solitary digging with my Ames shovel, oddly, of what we know as the "old boys network." Thinking how silly it was for people to think that things could simply change in the Corporate environment. The challenges we were confronting at work on how to get more diversity, how to put more women in the highest ranks, globalization, and the POWER OF THE NETWORK came to mind. I had been working right alongside the men in power for decades. I knew they/we now "got" diversity and they've long understood the power of a network of relationships. They were as perplexed as the Diversity and Inclusion leaders, however, that they couldn't get things to change.
They -- we -- were looking at the surface. Doing as I had been doing in my garden for years on end, planting a hopeful prize here and there, and adding fertilizer and money, with the intent to have the new and wondrous blossoms spread. But you see, it doesn't work that way. For a new, more diverse garden to grow, you need to go deep, get dirty, get muddy, and dig with all your might for far longer than you ever imagined.
Over the winter of 2009/2010, the bulbs and seeds I had planted were taking root. In the Spring, I was thrilled to see new green shoots. By May 4th (my dad's birthday), gorgeous new tulips and daffodils looked out at me, though still surrounded by harsh looking dirt. A neighbor wondered if I might want to put bark mulch down to cover that unsightly dirt. I did not cover it up. I tended it, and added smelly shit (chicken doo doo, to be exact) to help it along. More deep roots found their way to the surface and they were removed much easier. The earth became more forgiving to till. Gardening was still hard work, but so rewarding it seemed unfair. Each morning, I would walk among the new shoots and appreciate each baby new blossom, welcoming it to the world. I planted more seeds.
PHOTO: The first shoots and flowers of a new natural order, following "endless-feeling" messiness.
One day, I was sort of offended when my 8 year old criticized my garden. She said, "Mom, you know you have too much green in there. It needs more pinks and blues." I took a deep breath. I knew the colors would come. But I ventured to the garden shop anyway and loaded my car with all the pink and blue perinneals it could hold. The next weekend, I took my husband's truck and loaded it up more. After each haul, planting and relishing in the expanding beauty.
Toward the end of the summer, as I was expanding the garden in a way that it would look more "balanced," like an upside down "U" versus a lopsided "L," I found bedrock. The earth above had been crabgrass. No wonder, anything that wished to grow only had a couple of inches of dusty dirt with which to grow upon.
PHOTO: The emerging, if "unbalanced," garden.
I was eager to find the boundaries of this bedrock, which I started to nickname "Mount Monadnock" after the bald headed mountain I hiked on as a kid. Neighbors on their morning walk watched me curiously at this "futile" attempt. One man said, "You should just cover that back up. You'll never win. It is obviously massive and it won't look good once the dirt is removed."
PHOTO: "The "futile" bedrock. Cover it up, or feature it?"
Well, there is one thing you should know about me. Never tell me what can't be done. What shouldn't be done. ;)
I worked that bedrock until the boundaries were discovered. It was loaded with architectural finds from the ice age of rock formations and drift. The kids in the neighborhood took pleasure making cairns from the stones. A dry river bed was made linking it to the rest of the garden. Twisted branches were placed over the river way like arches. Each rainstorm became a "day-after sport" to see the riverbed flowing and enjoy the colors of the stone that it revealed.
By Fall, the volume of runners and walkers making their way suddenly to this once off-the-beaten path part of the 'hood was noteworthy. Each morning I was met with enthusiastic chants like, "Keep it going!" "I wish someone in my neighborhood would do something like this!," and my favorite, "Wow, this is going to be a tourist attraction!"
PHOTO: A glimpse at the hundreds of sunflowers and cosmos mingling as my daughter naps on a bench restored for the garden. It is painted with the message, "Enjoy."
PHOTO: My daughter, Margo, enjoying the fruit of the seeds she planted with me the prior year.
Today, my garden is rooting under literally feet of snow. Little evidence of the garden and its many sculptures can be seen under the pure white mountains. It is beautiful in its purity. In its anticipation. And I know that after all these storms, bright colors and great daily wonders await all who wish to see it.
---------------- Talk Back -----------------
Thoughts on this post?
The linking thoughts in my mind are of crazy nature gone wild; social movement; new forms of leadership emerging; the might, time, effort, and love it takes to move the entrenched; 2012; and the beauty that will be sure to come for those who let it come to them, with peaceful determination.
- Polly Pearson
@pollypearson on Twitter