July 15, 2011
Editor’s note: The following letter is addressed to LO president Tom Intven in response to his column, ‘Spring is a time to be off balance on purpose’ that appeared in the May 2011 edition of Horticulture Review.

Tom, I found your article to be an insightful way to look at the way we as landscapers operate. I have never thought of it in the way you write, however, I have organized my life to follow this concept.

In the last five years I have managed to take off time in the winter for a get-away. At first it was two weeks and then over the last couple of years, I have built it up to eight to ten weeks.

My pursuit during this time-off is to focus my energies on rebuilding myself. Long walks, a gym membership and healthy eating have allowed me to spend my spring in ‘off balance on purpose’ mode, without feeling stressed. After more than 20 years landscaping, I have come to not only accept, but embrace, the fact that spring is a constant rush of the unexpected: equipment breakdowns, clients who change their minds, staff who do not work out, weather that makes us change our job schedule, etc.  We can plan and organize all we want, but we must realize that something will always arise to change how things go forward. By accepting this and having the energy built-up from the off season, my life has never been more content.

Aging brings wisdom

I should add that the necessity of such time off was due to getting older. When I first started out, it was not uncommon to work four to five weeks straight, with maybe two days off in total. Aging does have the benefit of wisdom. If only one could have the energy of being 20, with the wisdom that comes with so many years of learning.

I am lucky to be one who thoroughly enjoys what they do. Even on the Victoria Day long weekend, I found myself going to work to do some equipment repairs. I am able to have other staff look after most of the day-to-day issues, so that I can in fact take some time to get back to some of the things that I love.

I started out my in my early years rebuilding cars, motorcycles and snowmobiles. That enjoyment of mechanical things and putting everything in its place has been a fun thing to revisit. With the recent departure of a long-time staff member, who did most of our minor equipment maintenance, it became an accidental discovery as no one else was able to take on this role. I have been able to organize our inventory of used and new parts and put our shop into its most structured state in years.

Embrace change without stress

The ability to embrace this change without stress is indeed a concept that is not regularly discussed. It is a shame that our society seems to be all about the routine. Most of us get up by setting an alarm clock, get to work at the same time and do the same work. This we are taught is the way that things should be. It all starts with school. Everyone needs to conform, do the same work and follow the same rules.  

It is only recently in our evolution as a species that we have tried to structure ourselves this way. We would never have survived for so long if we had always been like this. In fact, our false sense of structure may be what is causing so many people today to be unable to cope. The use of anti-depressants has never been so high, and yet it seems more people are still not in a place that works for them.  

Adversity brings achievement

I agree that most of our greatest accomplishments have been achieved under states of extremes. Aviation before the Second World War was primitive with planes constructed of wood and canvas. By the end of the war, massive bombers with complex aluminum structural components all built the same are a prime example.  Although the Second World War was a tragedy for so many, it brought about the advancements that all of us take for granted every day.

I thank you for your article and hope others understand what you are trying to say. From all of the years that I have been reading, I found the article touched me in a way that merited my response.  In writing something, one is never sure if the words get across the message which one is trying to convey. I hope my letter to Tom shows my appreciation for what he wrote.
Marc Arnold
Rockcliffe Landscaping, Ottawa