This past weekend, Marcus, Alex and I visited a farmers' market about 20 minutes from our house. It's a market that has been around for years, apparently, but it was our first time there ... which is a crime, because in addition to having some of the best goat cheese in Texas, there are artisanal coffee makers, and soap makers, and God help me, chocolate makers. It was our first visit, yes, but I suspect it won't be our last.
One of the stalls was manned by an orchid grower, who had some of the most stunning flowers I've ever seen. He told us all about the huge greenhouse that he has in his back garden in a suburb of Houston, where he grows hundreds of orchid plants all year long. He sells at the farmers' market every week, but he also enters orchid growing competitions, where he wins blue ribbons on the regular. Such an interesting guy.
I'm really awful at growing things -- truly -- but the guy behind these orchids wouldn't hear of it. He took a lot of time introducing us to the various varieties of orchids, telling us the little idiosyncrasies of each blossom, and sharing how we could take care of each one. This was clearly something he was passionate about; however, he made no bones about the fact that his extensive knowledge came over years of experience, trial and error. His words reminded me of my friend Gayla Trail, an author and gardener extraordinaire who has said similar things to me when I've lamented my inability to grow things. "I've killed so many plants in my day," she says. "It just takes time and perseverance."
We bought an orchid.
In order to keep my law license active, every year I'm required to attend 15 hours of continuing legal education. Some time ago, I attended a professional responsibility course by the very funny Sean Carter, a lawyer who uses humour to educate. I remember at one point during his talk, he said, "I would just like to tell you -- and I mean this with Christian love -- you all really suck."
His point was that no matter how great we thought that we were as lawyers, we weren't nearly as great as we were going to become. He said he remembers 5 years ago when he thought he was doing really great work, but now, when he looks back at that work, he's somewhat embarrassed by it -- and this is a good thing, because he always wants to keep growing and evolving as a lawyer; and, in fact, if five years hence he didn't look at the work he was doing today and feel a bit embarrassed, he would worry about his own growth and progress. He posited that those of us sitting in the audience probably feel the same about our work from years past, and that years hence, we would be amazed at our own growth.
I was thinking about his words this weekend, as I went through the archives of Chookooloonks. I mentioned last week that I felt like my photography had stagnated, so when I went through my archives, I was a little bit surprised that I was horrified at some of the photographs I published 5 years ago, images that I wouldn't think of sharing now. It seems that over time, my work actually has evolved, albeit very slowly, in a way that I hadn't really noticed day-to-day. And this gives me hope that 5 years from now, I'll look at the photographs I share today, and think to myself, "Good Lord. Thank goodness I'm so much better now than that."
Evolution, it seems, isn't just slow for the species. It can be slow on a personal level, as well. But if you work at it, day-by-day, bit-by-bit, it actually happens.
Over the last few weeks, I've been working on myself a lot -- physically, but also in terms of my work and my spiritual life, as well. I am indubitably a Type A personality: I'm impatient, and I want to see results immediately.
For the record, immediate results are not forthcoming.
But I can't help but think that the lessons of the orchid grower, Gayla Trail and Sean Carter are coming to me at just the right time (spurred on, no doubt, by the awesome online yoga course I'm taking with Marianne Elliott). As the tortoise and the hare taught us as kids, often slow and steady wins the race.
I just need to have faith that determined and persistent work actually is producing results, even if I can't readily see them.