Building a garden

Lessons learned when life gets messy and you’re elbow deep

So far, if 2018 was a person, I would probably describe them as the sort of person that you’d welcome with a smile as a potential new friend before shortly realizing your mistake and spending the next 7 months trying to get them to leave again.

It’s been tough, I’ve been quiet

But before you worry again (my apologies if anyone worries), this isn’t a post about pain, doom and gloom. It’s a post about what happens when you start to build a garden.

I live in a fairly small, fairly average house in a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand. It’s a good little house. It has a hole in the living room carpet where we left a freezer for too long once, 5 years ago.

It is also filled with art and pictures, half finished craft/technology projects and some wonderfully bitter homemade marmalade.

I am incredibly lucky to live in my house. It’s warm and dry and filled with the chaotic sort of love that people fail to understand until they see it in action.

Best of all, my home has a garden

It’s not much to look at.

After 6 years of living here I can’t say I paid much attention to it. It grew, I cut bits of it. It flooded, I cleared drains and foliage. It existed and so did I. I walked through it everyday and barely gave it a second thought.

I’ve never been a gardener.

As I grew up, the only gardening I experienced was my Grandfather’s roses. I didn’t really think about how they grew or what happened to them when I wasn’t there idly cutting off the flower heads to steep in water and make garden perfume. They were vibrant and smelled amazing. Every summer, despite my best efforts as a child perfumer, they would thrive.

I didn’t understand my grandfathers role in all this.

Then I met 2018

This year I started building my garden

As I faced my own health issues and restructured my company until it was just me that stood in an empty office, packing my last boxes and silently crying, I dug out river stones in their thousands and stacked them in muddy piles for later use.

As I switched off my SaaS product and started to focus on training and elearning, I cut back invasive trees and self seeded monsters, clearing the soil to let the small natives flourish. Underestimating how hard it was to clear things that had already established, understanding little about what to do with the remains of these trees.

As my family changed shape and I faced independence, new relationships and the evolution of some old ones, I built raised vegetable beds from cheap, un-sanded timber, with rusted hand-tools. Ugly, imperfect and asymmetrical they stand ready for the seedlings to come, with only hope, not guarantees of success.

As I looked at myself and taught myself to be happier, to be calmer and to be more forgiving, I restored old cast-iron tools that I’d found for a dollar online. Metal cast in 1925 and mistreated, brought to a dark shine by white vinegar and baking soda.

Nothing comes easily at first

I didn’t do this for the good life. I didn’t seek out a future filled with gum-boots and self-sufficiency. I sank my hands into the damp, clay soil as a way to remember that nothing beautiful grows without focus and effort. Nothing worth spending your short life on flourishes in an instant, nothing is perfect and nothing comes easily at first. My Grandfather didn’t have magical roses, he was patient and spent 20 years helping them survive life (and children) so that they could thrive each summer.

My garden has been a good reminder. It forces me to focus, to go slow and to wait for things to happen, to obey the weather and be still from time to time.

You could say that SafeStack’s changes in the last 7 months have echoed all of this. Things have been stripped back and restored. Sometimes this has had to be destructive, sometimes this has been very lonely and dirty work.

Sometimes, I stare at the wreck of my garden and feel overwhelmed that there is so much to do.

Sometimes, I see something start to change however and realize how small and subtle growth can be (and how easily we can miss it when we aren’t taking a breath and taking stock).

So where next?

Now I am sitting on a chair watching the birds hunt for worms in the wet grass and starting to prepare for the next steps.

The seasons will change soon enough and my empty beds will start to fill, some with vegetables and herbs, some with beautiful colours that will attract birds and bees and some with weeds and unexpected monsters.

Somewhere in all of this SafeStack will continue to move onwards. Smaller and quieter, more focused and more content with flourishing step by step at a few things… that may take years to grow.

Alongside my garden I have been building things, tangible things and refining our approach to training. News of all of these will come soon enough and hopefully you will be as excited as I am.

And for me? I’m quietly growing too, literally, new life that will come into my world in November. An unexpected addition to the chaos of changing relationships, companies and garden beds but one that is most welcome and already loved.

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