Friday, June 5, 2009

How Did I Get Here?

In my first post I made the bold statement that my apprenticeship is over, but you know, that just isn't true. To mark the end of something, you kind of have to mark the beginning, and when I trace back through all my previous lives, I can't find a time when I didn't have an affinity for nature and a compulsion to make spaces beautiful and interesting. If my whole life has been my apprenticeship, then I think that any discussion of it ending is premature!

It's true: everything I've ever done has prepared me for what I'm doing now. From haphazard childhood vegetable and flower gardens, through my houseplant and macrame teens, to young mom needing a hobby to frustrated marketing exec needing to express her creative side. Eight years ago this week, I combined all of the above (and more) to become a garden designer, and have never looked back. Until now.

I can see that there were other, subtler influences. My toddlerhood in the Philippines...vague memories of exotic flowers, fruits and smells...geckos and tarantulas fighting on the screen door. Young childhood in Sunnyvale California, surrounded by cherry, apricot, plum and walnut orchards. My mother's casual and flowery gardens that hosted so many wonderful creatures, some of which you just don't see any more. (I was a total insect geek as a kid...other kids played tetherball, I looked for ladybugs.) Summer visits to Illinois, and the thrill of new midwestern flora and fauna to explore.

When I was 9 we moved to a house on a creek. Insect geek was there were fish and frogs and toads and snakes and lizards to find, catch, observe, release. That creek was a constant source of fun and entertainment for years (with various agendas as we got older, of course!)

My parents were also wonderful about showing us the best that nature had to offer: long, rambling RV trips to many national parks (today's picture, of my younger sister Lisa and me, was taken in Yosemite in the early 70s. It has always been a favorite because guessed it...the Lupines!)

I did a year abroad in college, studying Art History at the University of Sussex, and it was there that I really came to appreciate gardens and the art of gardening. There is nothing so magical as an English spring (and nothing so welcome to this California girl after an English winter!) During spring holidays I did a solo walking tour all over Sussex, and fell in love with the cottage gardens in the villages through which I wandered. My friend Robin and I especially loved nature walks; our favorite one took us through mile after mile of bluebell covered woods. It was heaven.

So, when I first said my apprenticeship was over, I was thinking of the eight years since leaving my last "real" job, and all the work I've done since then to build my practice, support my profession, and leave a lasting legacy. But, what about the 15 years in marketing and advertising before that? Think I might have picked up a trick or two along the way? And those endless hours of Powerpoint... think they might have prepared me for learning CAD? You bet.

It is a great blessing to look back on your life and really see how every part of it has conspired to bring you where you are now. And if you are able to gather all those threads together and weave them into something warm, strong and beautiful? Priceless.


  1. This is my favorite post so far- it explains so much about you! Your choice of plants seem to reflect your childhood- a nice blend of exotics/tropicals balanced with good old fashioned forest friends that you experienced camping with your family. Your true art is the ability to have these completely different types of plants play together in harmony! It's fun to read this, and then look at the pictures of your own yard- I can see it's really a lifetime of planning and experiences that got you there :) The rest of the world thanks you for your change in careers!

  2. Aw, Limey, thank you so much...and you're right, since no garden of mine would be complete without my old friends AND my new crushes it does add up to a rather eclectic mix! Would love to have you visit sometime...I'm not that far away! xo

  3. We are always in SJ for Thanksgiving for sure- I'll let you know!

  4. I've been thinking these EXACT same thoughts lately! Nothing is left behind ... no matter how disparate or random our choices and paths seem to be, thy inform the picture and bring it into focus.

    I agree with you wholeheartedly.

    And what a total cutie you were/are!

  5. Thanks Germi...our gardens kind of tell our story, don't they! Can't wait to come and see yours...xo

  6. What a wonderful post to read! The photo accompanying the text is beautiful and sets the tone for your writing. It is amazing how the various threads of our lives come together and make us who we are now. Your writing is great!

  7. Kate, thank you so much! I'm glad my writing touches a's the most genuine thing I do...

  8. Oh, the bluebell woods! Instant nostalgia for the Scottish Lowlands....

  9. I only read this post a week or so ago and throught how similar our tracks :-)

    About 6 or so years ago I left my main career track in communications (marketing ~advertising~ PR etc. which I did for early stage hi-tech companies) and focused on my second career track of Architectural & Interior design. I've always taken a few House and Garden design opportunities through the years. My Design partner had similar twin tracks, having studied Architecture at Berkeley before heading into a main career focus of Marketing, Advertising and Corporate Identity for some major players.

    We have found our experience in Marketing communications (as you obviously do) a great asset in marketing our new career focus and marketing (presenting) our Architectural designs to clients.

    I have a list of people I have met on twitter whom I am looking forwad to meet F2F, and you are with my favorite group, right at the top. I love your blog and how you embrace twitter.


  10. What a great post, you were so right to leave hi-tech. I did the same, only I was a Software Engineer for 20 years, but have always loved nature and gardening. Following your passion is not always the easiest way, but it's certainly the most soul satisfying! I am glad to see that you are an "insect geek" also. My favorite toys growing up were butterfly nets, magnifying glasses, and "roly-polys".

    Kathy @gardenfornature

  11. There's a lot to think about here. I'm 28 and have had a graphic design, legal, and now office manager careers. I beat myself up a lot for making the mistake of going to law school, that I am paying for by working in a job I hate that has absolutely zero future potential. I'm glad to read that you've been able to successfully transition into a career that you enjoy, hopefully I'll get there someday...

  12. Give yourself time, 28 I was a stay-home mom with only a few years of work experience behind me. I think the accumulation of your experiences can point you in one direction or another, if you let it!

  13. That was nice to read this morning. I bet there were some great eye opening trips on TWA...