In 2018 I have traveled to two dramatically hot, dry and ancient places. India came first in late winter, followed by Arizona this month. Both trips involved extended driving through vast expanses of mountainous desert land peppered by stops at archaeological and man-made monuments.
These visits to vastness: the Grand Canyon stretching hundreds of miles and Buddhist monasteries that took generations of laborers to carve into mountains before the birth of Christ, offer sharp glimpses into what infinity looks like. One can’t fail to be humbled by the monumentality and timelessness of it all, while simultaneously reminded of the fleeting nature of individual human life.
I am a designer. What does all this have to do with me or the business of imagining and implementing landscapes for a paying clientele? The answer is: everything. Trips like this can’t fail to push ‘pause’, opening up renewed annoyance with the inane electronic life we live: cell phones, laptops, Amazon-everything and the ever-present rush to do more ‘better, faster, smarter’.
Baseball, the beloved American multi-billion-dollar sport, is in serious jeopardy of losing popularity because its audience is ageing and the game doesn’t move fast enough for younger fans. Time Magazine reports that “there is a major dissonance between the focus and attention it (baseball) demands and the habits of younger generations who expect action to be a click away.” Yikes, try telling that to Buddha!!
I immediately translate this dilemma to my business as I more often encounter expectations about timelines and outcomes that are so accelerated from ten, or even five years ago. ‘Point and click’ may work for shoes and airfare, but it will never, and should never be asked to work for landscape design and implementation.
People used to plant trees for their grandchildren. Now they plant them for a party scheduled a few weeks away. I have clients request the biggest possible plants because they “don’t want to be old” before enjoying them, or they ask why building a hand tooled stone wall has to take ‘so long’. The requests and questions leave me completely baffled. It’s takes time – that’s mostly the point.
Landscape is not an off-the-shelf purchase. It’s very much about the time spent waiting, watching and experiencing the unfolding, liquid process of life. You wouldn’t expect your children to arrive as fully formed adults, and it’s the same with landscape. The place where you buy plants is called a ‘nursery’ for good reason. Watching change and growth, failures and successes is the joy of having outdoor rooms. There is no need to ‘hack’ (I loathe this word) any part of it, looking for quickie short cuts. Hacking doesn’t apply to Mother Nature. She’s in no rush.
India and Arizona rewired my thinking, leaving an expanded sense of space and time, a sharp contrast to my work pace. I’m going to modify that and take a longer view. I’m going to get back to the garden!
The Suburban Lot is a monthly blog that highlights topics and issues unique to the suburban landscape. For assistance with any of the above information, please contact Mierop Design, a complete resource for landscape design, installation and property maintenance services.