I love a good book. A gripping play. A haunting song. An elegant sculpture. A graceful dance. All that artistry, that creativity, fully on display astounds and moves me.
I also love a well-designed plan. A complex project that comes to life. A student excited by a great teacher. A social issue given traction.
Some of us create art, others create systems, but we all create change.
Every time we see things in a new way, have an idea that needs an outlet, or take a fresh approach to doing things, we are in touch with our creative side.
To ignore or neglect it is to take some of the joy out of living.
Look and you’ll see.
It’s easy to miss your creative side amid the demands of your daily life. It’s not just artists and performers who are creative; it’s in all of us. We just have to look at what we’re doing day by day to see that creativity manifesting itself.
For years I have been hand-mowing a steep bank behind my house, and it was becoming increasingly more difficult. I often joked that my goal for each mow was not to cut off my foot.
This fall I contacted Todd Longenbach, long-time friend and owner of Western Lehigh Landscape, to see what he could do to help.
There’s nothing I like better than to see a project unfold, following a plan, a process, and well-orchestrated use of people and material resources.
It started with a visit to my “dreaded bank.”
With Brian, the designer, I needed to explain the kind of look I was after. That led to the design–an artful sketch of the reconfiguration of the bank and its plantings.
After that, creativity and skill became married as man, machine, and materials turned into their own kind of dance.
Below is a picture of the blank canvas–the bank before its transformation.
Next comes the assembling of equipment and materials–just like the paints and brushes required for a painting.
Excavation follows in the way a sculptor would rough out form on a piece of granite.
The positioning of each stone forms the bold lines a painter would need before adding the detail.
Filling in with plantings brings color, texture, and warmth to add to the artistry.
The finish is the moment of realization that the transformation is complete–something new and beautiful has come from an initial vision through the power of heavy equipment and the attentive labor of men bent to the task.
In spring the grass will emerge, the flowers will bloom, and the project will reveal its full artistry.
Artistry is about touch.
It rarely occurs to us to consider:
- The heavy equipment operator as artist, carving a picture from the earth
- The extractor of large stones as artist, selecting the right shapes and sizes
- The men who rake and plant as artists, exercising their eye for line and detail
That’s because we aren’t really watching.
If we were in an operating room watching a surgeon deftly handle a scalpel or a laser, we’d marvel at his or her touch, that ability to feel exactly the right pressure to exert or angle for the cut.
I watched Todd gently lift and place those enormous boulders with the track hoe, using its thumb to secure each piece or the end of the fork to turn the stone so it fit just so. I watched him position the machine to create the lines he wanted, to solve slope problems, and to make sure that everyone around him stayed safe.
Through the course the project, the landscaping crew (Steve, Kyle, Dave, Zack, and Dylan) worked together effectively to create the final picture.
Like every accomplished artist, Todd stayed focused on his vision for the project as it unfolded, providing clear direction to his crew with great calm and efficiency.
Creativity and skill are bedfellows. The more skill we develop the greater our ability to release our creative side and find joy in what it brings to the world. So please keep digging.