My husband, the master gardener, loves to have company in his garden as he works. For many years he liked it when Mike, our fourteen year old cat, would slink over to wherever he was, find a spot, and offer up a purr or two. Sadly, Mike, passed on a few years back and I am invited to find a spot and offer up what I do best- conversation. Early on I sensed that Dave preferred to work in silence and that my presence and occasional help was all that was necessary.
This last week, Dave was on a trimming mission and he definitely wanted me on clean-up detail. I didn’t mind because it was sunny and I knew that I could just continually, ‘think my own thoughts’, as I worked to cut the branches and put the clippings in the bags. He started with the easy bushes. I just clipped and stuffed happily along. But then I knew I was in trouble as he brought out the ladder and started conquering the wisteria that grows wildly up our deck’s huge shade trellis.
“Watch it up there, you know how much I love that shade,” He continued to hack.
“Don’t worry, Nanc, it grows like a weed and I need the sun for my oak leaf hydrangea please just continue to put the foliage in bags.”
I started to feel overwhelmed as Dave continued to saw with gusto. Branches were flying. My clippers weren’t keeping up. My hands were tired and I wondered if somehow my tool needed sharpening. I turned it around the other way and suddenly it was cutting the wisteria like butter. I was happier and was starting to think my thoughts again.
My tool didn’t work one way, so I tried it another way instead of abandoning it altogether. It is like that with the teaching tools and strategies also… a good tool is flexible. At firs,t when I turned the clippers the other way I thought, kind of in an embarrassed way, that I was using the tool in the wrong way or that something was wrong with the tool. When Dave got off the ladder I confessed that to him.
He stared and me and said, “I use the clippers, both ways…it depends on the branch and my position.”
At school we need to make those instant decisions with our tools continually. I need that reminder that great tools are flexible in the hands of a master gardener. Incidentally, I believe, that master gardeners never view themselves as finished. They assess, plant, fertilize, revisit, prune and pray.