March 19, 2013, by Ed Melvin

In A Spare Moment

Recently I participated in my first ever employee review as I have for much of my career worked alone.  In joining SHP back in September of last year, I gave myself a couple important tasks to do.  One of these was to allow myself to be known as a person and a resource within the firm.  Though I have worked with SHP for many years, it seems my work was not well known.

So I ask myself: What do I do?  What is my work?  Practicing landscape architecture, the answer may seem simple and obvious.   I draw lines to represent walks, drives trees, shrubs and flowers.  These are the results of my actual work, the documenting of my work.  In trying to answer this question the origin of solutions tells more about who I am than the finished process of documenting a client’s solution.  My actual work happens quietly in listening and noticing, wondering and dreaming, of people, the world, and the current problem - the current puzzle - the current project. I build an image in my mind containing everything associated with the project: words, pictures, rules, expectations, people, smells, textures, places and dreams.   When one of these elements change, my internal image falls apart, then internally I must rearrange everything to build a new project one.  So sometimes there is much effort to reconstruct these and until a project is built in the world, I continually adjust the image.   Hopefully translating well enough into lines and words that it becomes real in the world….. Don’t tell anyone, but what really I do is dream for others.

When we are young, adults ask ‘what do you want to be when you are grown up?'   My first answer was, 'I don't want to grow up', but of course I did not voice this answer.   I did not want to be a person that forgot how to dream, to imagine and wonder about the world, its people; today I still do not want to forget to do these things every day.  In short, I just want to be me, noticing, wondering, and dreaming.  This is my work, which will never be complete.

The following is a portion of the poem 'Famous' by Naomi Shihab Nye.  Ms. Nye speaks of being simple and honest with oneself, this is what I want to be when I grow up… day.


I want to be famous to shuffling men

who smile while crossing streets,

sticky children in grocery lines,

famous as the one who smiled back.


I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,

or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,

but because it never forgot what it could do.


- Famous by Naomi Shihab Nye