Crisis and Creativity

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but I contend that actually it’s crisis that’s the real mother of invention.

Lately I feel like I’ve hit one crisis after another—getting Covid during the busiest season in the garden, having book sales completely tank in the lead-up to Christmas, having a critical component of a week-long science lesson be unavailable anywhere last week …

In the garden, I cut corners, laying compost on top of the soil rather than incorporating it as I usually do, in order to save time and limited physical energy. It’s something I hoped to be able to start doing, but figured I still had years of breaking up clay before it would work. Surprisingly, while the soil is a little harder than I’d like it to be for planting, it’s not terrible. If the plants do okay, I may have just changed my garden routine for good, saving me lots of work.

For my books, I’ve taken a step back from the ‘usual’ marketing techniques that have been costing me more than they’ve been bringing in. I’ve analysed what I’m good at, what I enjoy doing, and how I can incorporate those things into my marketing strategy, rather than banging my head against marketing strategies I’m no good at and hate doing. It will take a while to implement my new plan, and even longer to know if it works, but I’m having a great time working on marketing at the moment, rather than dreading every second of it as I usually do.

In the classroom, with less than 24 hours until my science lesson, I launched into preparations for plan B—activities I hadn’t run in 30 years. I felt completely unprepared, and kept realising things I’d forgotten to prepare or forgotten to do—each time I looked around at the resources to hand and got creative. The result was a set of fabulous lessons that didn’t look at all like I’d planned, but which worked well and were fun for everyone.

I really hope next week isn’t as full of crisis as the past several have been, but if they are, I’m pretty sure that as long as I keep moving forward, creativity will blossom and I’ll end up in better shape than before.

Here’s to crisis and creativity!


2016-03-30 08.37.09 smWhen I picked it up on the beach, it was lichen-green. A fist-sized chunk of serpentine that looked all but translucent. It was almost alive.

I brought it back to the campground. As it dried, it lost some of its lustre. It lost its translucence, but remained green.

When we packed up to come home, I took the rock with me, nestled in a cup holder in the car. Leaving the humid, green West Coast, we drove up over the mountains, and back into dry, brown Canterbury.

When I picked the rock out of the car, it was frosty white, with a few sparkles of pyrite in the crevices. Dry and dead.

I think people are like that rock.

When we see them in their own “habitat”—in the place where they feel they belong—they are alive and vibrant. They show their depth and their colours. We see their full beauty.

But when we see a person in a place where they don’t feel like they belong—a place where they’re uncomfortable—they frost over. We see only their surface and little of their beauty. There may be hints—small sparkles in the crevices, if we look closely—but most of their beauty will be hidden.

I used to see this a lot, working at nature centres in the U.S. Teachers would regularly warn me about “problem” children. Kids who were nothing but troublemakers, according to the teachers.

I took special note of these children, because I learned quickly that they were likely to be my best students. Take them out of the classroom where they felt they didn’t belong, and put them in a place where they could shine, and they invariably did. They were often smart, funny, helpful, eager to engage with the subject, and bursting with questions—completely different from the sullen, disengaged, miscreants the teachers viewed them as.

I don’t think their transformation had anything to do with my teaching skills—it was simply that they were more comfortable outdoors, moving around, picking up sticks, throwing rocks. They were in their habitat, and could show their beauty. I wished the teachers could have seen their students’ transformations—most of the time, the teachers sat around drinking coffee while their students were out on the trails. I don’t think they believed me when I told them how marvellous their “problem” students were.

Take my word for it. This rock is beautiful.2016-03-30 08.40.54 sm