May Day and the Big Reveal

Are you celebrating May Day?  I will be celebrating by moving a couple tons of gravel into place.  Call me if you care to join.

First off I want to share this lovely saguaro bloom with you.  Isn’t it fabulous?  Every single year I find it absolutely perplexing that these flowers come in a huge bunch out of the top of the saguaros!  It’s nuts.  I got up on the ladder, face-to-face with this guy, just so you could revel in its glory with me.

saguaro 1

So I have some news.  I think most of you already know this bit of information, but I’m going to pretend like I have a throng of readers that are hanging off every word right now.  You have to get your kicks somehow.

I’m going back to school!  Again!  As in, a second round of graduate school for a whole new profession!  I know.  It’s crazy.

Here’s the thing.  As I’ve mentioned, sitting at a computer is not for me.  I know there are tons of people out there who would love to have an office job (I meet them every day – guys doing piping and masonry and all kinds of hard labor jobs) and so a small part of me feels guilty for having that opportunity and not taking it.  But the reality is that landscape architecture is a serious desk job – one that requires sitting in a cube, eyes glued to autocad/photoshop/sketchup/ArcGIS/email for 50-80+ hours a week. Like so:

al gore

(P.S. that’s Al Gore if you can’t tell.  That whole setup looks a little “A Beautiful Mind”-ish to me, right?  Just jokin’, love ya Al.)

You see, I was romanced by graduate design school.  We had colored pencils and trace paper and intellectually stimulating group projects.  We stayed til 3am at the design studio, coming up with world-saving solutions.  We gave great presentations and got huge pats on the back for ideas and graphics and ambition.  I found it to be life changing.  So no regrets with that part of things.

But, there’s something I might have done before embarking on 3 years of hard work like that.  Given a do-over, I might have planted myself in a landscape architecture firm for a few months to check out what the daily experience actually entails.  It’s a sensible thing to do before choosing a profession, yes?  Well, I didn’t do that.  Instead I did this summer program at Harvard for people who think they want to study landscape architecture, which included not only the colored pencils and fancy paper and life-changing camaraderie (not a computer in sight for 6 weeks), but the intoxicating atmosphere and prestige of an Ivy League school!  WHOOPS.  Not an indication of reality.

So instead of practicing “real” landscape architecture, I have been doing my own gardening and landscape design gig.  And I’ve loved it.  I love the physical aspect, the exposure to varying weather (hot and sunny, not much variation), the ability to change things at any given moment, and the opportunity to work with really cool people who care about their own contribution to a healthy environment.  But there are some serious downs to this gig.  It’s hard to make decent and reliable money.  The physical labor gets really intense, bordering on injurious many days.  And if I were to grow my operation, it would mean more time managing and less time doing.

Landscape architects do fabulous and important work, and I’m so glad that there are people out there who are good at it and who want to make sure we have well designed environments.  But I’m finally going to take this moment to fully speak my mind after holding it in for years:  I find it to be dreadful.  Okie doke?  So that’s the end of that.

I could go into a whole new story about how I landed on my next chosen path, but currently we’re at 640 words, so let’s skip most of it.  I’m starting a master’s degree in occupational therapy at the University of Wisconsin/Milwaukee in September!  And the smart news is that I’ve both talked to a bunch of people in the field and shadowed a bunch of people in the field, and there is no part of me that feels skeptical about the daily experience of doing this job.  I hope to work in schools where I can use gardens as part of the therapeutic process, and maybe do some consultation work that brings together universal design standards + fun schoolyards + ecologically sensitive interventions.  Eventually, my girlfriend, about to pursue a master’s in speech language pathology, and I might start a small private practice clinic that brings therapy together with gardens, animals, art, music, community activities, and other holistic health elements.  It’s a long-term vision, but it finally feels like the right path.


SO first check this site chouprojects.com!  This is getting terribly long winded.

This last piece is important.  I’ll continue to do landscape design and installation during May, June, and July, and would love to get round-the-clock jobs up until we set sail for Milwaukee.  So if you’re in the market, or if you know someone who is, I would love to talk.  Give me a ring!  Send me an email!  Drop a note by carrier pigeon!

Carrier Pigeon

Thanks for tagging along on the verbose ride today.  Tomorrow: interesting and pertinent information relating to landscapes, I promise.

(Okay, last thing, I double promise…it turns out I love blogging.  Nerd!  Any ideas on how I can continue?  Cat-in-Milwaukee blog?  Hit me up.)

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