Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Guest post by Nicola Chatham: finding Flow in your veggie patch

"So, what do you do?"

Don't you love that ques­tion?!! I never know how to answer. I've been prac­tis­ing being more con­cise and inter­est­ing, but what I usu­ally say is…

"Well, I do two things. I'm an artist and I exhibit my work in Mel­bourne and Bris­bane. And I help peo­ple grow organic food with a blog and online train­ing course."

What I really do though, is chase 'Flow'.

When I was 18, I began prepar­ing my port­fo­lio for art school. The trou­ble was, I was ter­ri­fied of mak­ing marks on a page. I'd pretty much lost my cre­ativ­ity when my par­ents divorced three years ear­lier. It just fell away, prob­a­bly some­where with my joy and sense of safety. Return­ing to art was like court­ing a lover who'd rejected me. Painful. Full of doubt. Fear I'd be rejected again. "You're not good enough, you can't do this," I heard whis­pered over and over in my mind.

So I found a men­tor. He was an older artist. Worldly. Way­ward. Mys­te­ri­ous. Fun. Temperamental. He showed me how to put my ego aside and just dive in. Exper­i­ment. See what hap­pened. Don't take it per­son­ally. But do show up. Make marks. Put the time in. Don't run in fear of fail­ure. And don't take it so seri­ously – like my life depended on it. Because it felt like it did.

Sur­pris­ingly, I found an amaz­ing thing. When I did as he said (had a glass of wine and sat down to draw), I touched on an expe­ri­ence that has woven its way through my life ever since.

Flow :: Pres­ence :: Bliss :: Groove

"When­ever there is enthu­si­asm, there is a cre­ative empow­er­ment that goes far beyond what a mere per­son is capa­ble of." – Eck­hart Tolle, A New Earth

Pro­fes­sor Mihaly Csík­szent­mi­há­lyi calls it Flow. Bud­dhists call it Mind­ful­ness. Eck­hart Tolle calls it Awak­ened Doing. Joseph Camp­bell calls it Bliss.

Twyla Tharp calls it Groove. In her book The Cre­ative Habit (which I love, and highly rec­om­mend, by the way), she says:
"A groove is the best place in the world. It's where I strive to be, because when you're in it you have the free­dom to explore, where every­thing you ques­tion leads you to new avenues and new routes, every­thing you touch mirac­u­lously touches some­thing else and trans­forms it for the better."

Ever since those days prepar­ing my port­fo­lio, I've wanted more flow in my life. For me, flow is when time takes on another qual­ity. You're so absorbed in the task at hand, it feels like time doesn't exist.
But flow doesn't just hap­pen in the fine arts. Flow exists in prepar­ing a gar­den bed. Trans­form­ing lawn into abun­dance. It can be found in a well-stocked gar­den shed. And a box of your favourite seeds.

Flow vis­ited me this week­end in the veg­gie patch.

Time flew. The world didn't exist out­side of my imme­di­ate environment. I didn’t have a plan. Instead, one action led to the next. I pulled down the old Mada­gas­car bean, like shed­ding an old self image. The abrupt naked­ness of the bam­boo teepee shocked and excited me. I pre­pared the ring of soil around the base with nitrogen-rich green leaves and weeds, then lay­ered com­post, and finally hay soaked in molasses and water. Then I parted the hay like a skirt and planted snow peas.

It was all good. I went out­side to check my hand­i­work at 9pm and the naked teepee, with her new upside-down skirt, glowed in the full moon.


It can catch you unawares. But only if you are pre­pared and show up.
  • Put on your gloves.
  • Get into the habit of com­post­ing (so it’s ready, when you are).
  • Find your­self some seeds to play with.
  • Go out­side.

Nicola Chatham is an organic gardening teacher, permaculture designer and contemporary artist. Her Grow Organic Food in Pots course starts next week and enrolment closes in just over three days. I'm happy to promote and recommend Nicola's online courses because her first course, the Abundant Veggie Patch System, which I paid for, has transformed my garden and my way of thinking. I love her approach. I've enrolled on Grow Organic Food in Pots (especially as Nicola is covering worm farming this time) and would love for more people to join me! If you want to read more about Nicola's online course, pop your email address here and Nicola will send you all the details.

Joining in with Rachael's Garden Journal.


  1. Lovely! Can you pretty please pop this in the Garden Journal linky xxxx

  2. beautiful words! what a great image of the naked teepee ;) i have so much swimming in my head around the garden right now it hurts. and i know nothing! but i will...:)sarah

  3. Good day! First of all I would like to state that you truly managed to make a very nice looking site. Also I want to know one thing. Do you take place in any kind of competitions that involve online blogs?


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