Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Unpredictable Grasshoppers and the Quest for Quality

A few weeks back I noticed a mature grasshopper perched on the edge of my kitchen stove.
“Now how’d you get in here?” I asked.
Most likely it rode in on a bunch of freshly picked kale. During the growing season there’s a daily flow of traffic and materials between the house and garden. This literally opens the door to the world at large, and with it, the unpredictability of the outdoors. Next thing you know, you look over and see a grasshopper on your kitchen stove, and it’s
Hey, what exactly IS it doing? I peered closer.
It’s eating something! Looks like a dried piece of parsley that must have fallen off the cutting board when I was adding chopped parsley to some soup a couple days ago! I watch closely. After I duly recorded the event using my phone’s video camera, I cupped my hands around the grasshopper and took it back outdoors.
I’d have never predicted this event. That’s part of what I like about gardening: its unpredictability. 
Now, before we explore how such unpredictable events are an inevitable part of reaching toward a quality life, I must acknowledge that yes, of course, there’s value in predictability. We like our routines and we absolutely need stability in our lives. We like nearby rivers to stay in their banks. We like nearby banks to stay in business. We like nearby businesses to stock their shelves with hardware and groceries. Predictable access to food, in particular, seems important.
But there’s also a value in unpredictability. Picture yourself traveling to a new town. You’re getting hungry, and you have a couple common choices. The first is, you can make your way toward the familiar signs of the nationwide restaurant chains. On the other hand, thanks to smart phones, it’s also pretty easy to find a little mom ’n’ pop Mexican place (for example), most likely off the main drag, with fabulous food and quirky décor that you’ll never forget. Or maybe, quirky food and oddly disconcerting décor. Ya really don’t know. So the question then becomes, do you want a memorable experience, or a forgettable one? Are you willing to take a chance on a new restaurant, or will you opt for something familiar and predictably mediocre?
When it comes to home gardening (which is only one of hundreds of skills we hope the Green Hand Reskilling Initiative will promote), one of the biggest pros and cons is its unpredictability. The choice between growing your own heirloom tomatoes on the one hand versus purchasing store-bought commercial tomatoes on the other is comparable to the choice between trying out a potentially fantastic, one-of-a kind eatery you’ve never been to before versus having a forgettable meal at a national chain. The chains survive because people value predictability, and they make it easy for us to get used to a lower quality food experience. Bringing real quality into our lives takes a little more effort, and along with that effort comes an element of unpredictability: risk. For the would-be home gardener, the question can easily become: Why should I plant something when, assuming it even grows at all, a rabbit or a bug might come along and eat it instead?
However, something gets lost in the risk equation that sometimes tilts us toward choosing not only mediocre food, but also unsatisfying life experiences in general. Choosing a lower-risk, lower-reward path may seem like the safe bet in the moment, and eating (or living) that way may get us through an afternoon or even a year or two. But in the long run how can we really satisfy our physical, emotional, social, and developmental needs that way?
We can see the risks in risk avoidance in many areas of our lives. For example, yes, there are risks in dating, but there are also risks in avoiding those risks, becoming a loner or a homebody. There are risks in looking for a new job, but likewise there are risks in staying in a job that’s slowly killing you, just to pay the bills. Every truly expansive gesture of living seems to carry an immediate risk, whether we’re trying something new, making new friends, or exploring new destinations or approaches to living. And that’s what the Green Hands Reskilling concept is about: trying something new, making new friends, and exploring new destinations and approaches to living. Because in the longer run, risk avoidance carries risks of its own, and one of these is often a lower-quality experience of life.
In my writing I often use examples taken from gardening (maybe because I'm part grasshopper), since to me, quality food and the skills and sensibilities related to it are fundamental. But the transformative skills you share and learn could just as easily be how to launch a business website, write an essay, fix a bicycle derailleur or relieve stress through massage, yoga, or acupressure. And it’s amazing, once we start trying new things and living as though we’re really alive, to see the profound ramifications of our learning and our sharing. 

For example:
If you suddenly have a bike that works, you’ll show up in different places.
If you carry less stress in your body, you’ll show up in places different.

These things matter. Because, as I’ve explored in depth elsewhere, there's no telling where it all leads. Next thing you know, there might be a grasshopper sitting on your kitchen stove. I would never have predicted that, but there it was, and because of it, here’s this blog post. And now you’ve read it. 
Thank you! My life feels enriched! I hope yours does, too.

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