I need to tell you about the Garden of Gentle Breeze.
A couple years ago, I got it in my head that I wanted to stay overnight in a garden. Surely there was some kind of Airbnb or garden property I could rent for the night for a couple’s getaway.
Creative googling gets me very far indeed, and I happened upon the Garden of Gentle Breeze, a Japanese garden just outside of Corvallis. It was a private project on the property of a handyman who had built a garden for his mother, a nonagenarian whom he was taking care of in his home on the property.
It was one of those build-it-and-they-will-come projects: Something so fantastic you’d be hard pressed to find its likeness anywhere else. These are my favorite kinds of stories to write, so I pitched it to my travel editor, got an assignment, and went to visit.
When I say Japanese Garden you probably know exactly what to expect. Manicured properties, bushes that feel sculpted, aesthetic use of the four elements, maybe some Asian flourishes here and there.
But this place.
You might fall off your chair if you had been there. Flowers and grass, trees and ferns, streams and statues, yes yes yes. But on top of that, the owner had built a samurai hut in the middle of the property. He had found a 1909 journal of an actual Japanese samurai and he built a home there for this imagined person, even shipping in $4,000 worth of authentic Japanese roof tiles to cover the thing.
The samurai’s tools were laid out on a wooden table inside.
I can’t link to the Garden of Gentle Breeze, because it doesn’t exist anymore.
Like a breeze that came through in an afternoon, blew softly and then left, the Garden of Gentle Breeze is proof that you can’t do big creative projects alone. It just didn’t happen for the owners. The neighbors were annoyed at the people coming up the road and complained, the City of Corvallis required a $15,000 on property, the pay-what-you-will plan didn’t work to support it, and the owner was spending 100% of his time trying to keep up this massive garden by himself. He had a sick mother, an over-sized vision, and only one body.
We all have only one body.
By the time I was ready to file my story with AAA Via, the Garden of Gentle Breeze was gone and the owner was off to Thailand for a year-long meditation retreat.
I think there’s a lesson in here for all of us. It is perfectly fine to have a big vision for our creative impulses. I believe in big visions. I believe in shooting for the moon.
But in reality, whether you are writing a book, starting a bakery, launching an Etsy shop, making the world’s most amazing hidden garden project, whatever, it is very difficult to both maintain your body and mind while doing something really big all by yourself.
Creativity doesn’t need to be a solo project. In fact, it works better if it’s not. Your talents are your talents, and with so much noise out there it is not just a lark to involve others in making projects come alive. It’s a necessity.
Filmmakers understand this. No one expects Spielberg to be the only one in the credits to his films. With few exceptions, films don’t get made by one person.
This isn’t to say that you can’t do singular solo creative projects. We all do them. But when you shoot for the moon, you need a team.
So today I’ll leave you with an idea: How can you involve other people in the making of your big, beautiful project? And more importantly, how can you be the kind of person who lends your talents to other peoples’ creativity? When you see someone doing great work, how can you be a champion for them?
The solo artist model is over. Chances are good that you’ll be happier with your own work if you involve other people, and if you’re involved in helping others make their best work.
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