Cultivation

It’s time to order the new raised beds to reinstate the vegetable patch that was leveled to make room for my daughter’s garden wedding dance floor. Here is what I have in mind, white cedar raised, stacked mortise and tenon  beds from The Farmstead:

You can watch a YouTube video here showing how easy it will be to put together (in under five minutes per layer no less).

I bought packets of organic seeds at Home Depot yesterday, but will have to supplement with market packs when the time comes as I haven’t started early enough for some things which should already be seedlings in the greenhouse out back (currently a bit sad and in need of a good cleaning and some caulk).

I’ve been thinking a lot about cultivation lately.  The word itself has so many connotations — of civility and refinement, of nurture, of down in the dirt effort, of looking for approval and/or goodwill.  In my yoga practice, cultivation means finding strength in patience, a letting go of ego balanced by a will to push onward toward what yogis refer to as “the edge.”  In the garden, cultivation means a loosening of the soil to enhance the growing process and allow plants to stretch out their roots to obtain stability and moisture. In my teaching, cultivation means carefully stretching the budding intellects in my classroom toward making connections that transcend the literal, that express individuality of thought and argumentation.  In my writing, cultivation means tending language, weeding out the unnecessary and cross-pollinating my real and imaginative experiences.

I’ve been reading and thinking about creativity and where it comes from. There too, there is a balance between connecting disparate ideas in novel ways while yet remaining grounded in a utilitarian universe so as not just to be merely quirky or so much an inhabitant of a private mental universe as to be beyond comprehension.   Recent studies of creativity have found that the left brain and the right brain must cooperate, with neither becoming too dominant, for true innovation to occur.  Grey matter must not be overdeveloped; white matter must be plentiful enough to fend off the bossy grey.

In a wonderful post about the creative process, brainpickings.org writes “Genuine creativity needs a collision of ideas, something that will never happen if all your thoughts travel in the same direction.” The enemy of this collision, of this cross-pollination, is oddly enough, effort. A piece by Tony Schwatrz in the opinion section of the New York Times this morning rightly suggested that our modern, workaholic culture actually makes us less productive than does 90 minute bouts of effort interspersed with periods of restoration and rejuvenation.

Workplaces that encourage people to work at their own pace, to take chances, to think rather than to do, not only have higher retention rates but higher productivity and greater innovation.  It is the mindless busy work engendered by being tethered to our electronics — the hard work of not just being but looking constantly “busy” — that saps the creative juices and produces nothing more than conformity and burnout. 

Some of my best ideas have come in the garden.  The hours pass with little notice.  My left brain is satisfied by the methodical work of weeding, planting, accomplishing a tangible result.  My right brain is free to wander, literally to smell the flowers and to roam through the pathways of my experience, cultivating the garden of my imagination.