On September 13, I will be getting a lawn. We have lived for almost a year in a modest but beautiful home surrounded by crushed rock, weeds, sand and dirt. I spent a lot of my summer putting in flower beds and painting the deck and improving the yard as best I could, but in the end, weeds and rocks are still rocks and weeds and even the prettiest flowers look a bit sad against a backdrop of prickly, spindly thistles, misplaced rocks, and rain-pocked sand.
I started getting quotes for installing a lawn early in the spring. The first two quotes I received were enough to send threatening quivers of impending extinction through my bank account and I quickly moved on to other, less expensive projects (flowers starting at $4.99), but as August drew to a close, I knew we had to tackle the issue again, for I was determined to have a lawn before the frost of a Canadian autumn hit the ground. So I asked God to provide me with a nice lawn at a reasonable price and to point me in the direction of the right landscapers who were knowledgeable and honest and could help me accomplish this end. And then I started making phone calls.
I hate calling strangers – just shy, I guess, especially when so many of the people I contacted did not speak English very well and I am still struggling to speak basic French, not to mention having to wrestle with landscaping vocabulary which we don’t seem to spend a lot of time on in my French class. Nevertheless, I am tenacious and I called company after company and requested a quote for a lawn. Some never called me back. Some promised to make a trip out to my house but never did. Some came to my house while I was away and called me from my front yard with a quote. Some made an appointment and never showed up. One man got frustrated with my poor French and just hung up on me. Sorry, sir. I finally got the quotes down to what I thought was reasonable (more than a thousand dollars less than the original price I received in Spring) and showed the two choices to my husband. I was comfortable with both companies, though I slightly favoured the tall, dark, English-speaking gentleman with 'Bachelor of Agriculture' printed on his business card.
After twenty years of marriage, I should have known better than to expect easy acquiescence from my husband. He negotiates deals for a living and juggles tight budgets all day long. Basically, everything is always too much money, and in typical Dean fashion, he said, "That’s better, but let’s try to knock off another two to three hundred dollars." What? How was I supposed to do that? I had two quotes at exactly the same price from reputable, local landscaping companies and I was running out of time! Within two weeks, the window of warmth for seeding a lawn would be closed. How did he propose that I just “knock off another few hundred dollars?” Sigh. Well, back to God with my request to make it all possible within our budget and time restraints. This was becoming a daily prayer by this time. I picked up the weekly paper as was my habit and scanned the ads. This time I saw one for a local landscaper that I had not seen before, so I called him and he offered to come out that evening.
He showed up an hour early and his mannerisms reminded me of my charismatic friend from Lebanon – Pat included me in his personal space (touching my elbow when he addressed me directly), talked about his experiences with other customers, and overall, treated me more like a new-found friend than a possible client. He spoke English very well (except that he muttered to himself in French which I found endearing), invited me to measure the yard with him (all other landscapers had kept a certain professional distance with minimum conversation and personal contact), and made a point of finding out exactly what I wanted, what was important to me, and what kind of person I was. I mentioned my limited budget and he immediately tried to accommodate me by offering different options. One of them was asking if I was willing to work with him and his wife on installing my lawn and deducting my hours from the price. Heck, yeah! This is exactly the type of situation I was looking for – someone whom I could work with and learn from and was interested in team work. He said he would call me the next day with a price.
I was hopeful, but not too hopeful. The situation sounded too good to be true and in the end, I feared that his price would reflect the high value I was putting on his abundance of advice, remarkable flexibility, and desire to make me a happy and long-term customer. He called me at 8 am the next morning and gave me the breakdown of costs and all the options. I was still not quite awake so I said, "What does that all add up to?" We tallied everything together and the figure so surprised me with its reasonableness, being four hundred dollars less than the limit my husband had set, that without even consulting my budget-savvy mate, I told the guy on the phone, "Let’s go ahead." We made an appointment for early on September 13 and Pat said, “It will be fun – we’ll work and talk while we do it and have lunch together and at the end of 8 hours, you will have a lawn in the ground.”
I am looking forward to it. A day of hard work, people to share it with, an investment of time and labour and money in good proportion, and a sense of satisfaction at seeing a major project well-started (it will need re-seeding and maintenance next year as well, which is fine by me).
Life lesson: In the landscape of my life, there are many major projects that need to be done, and I have discovered that I love it when God asks me to be a part of his green team, to work with him, to learn from him, to develop skills in pulling weeds in my life, improving the soil of my soul, and growing good things that last. You can ask God to do it all for you while you sit back and watch, but I don’t see that as his modus operandi most times (just look at the story of the Israelites taking over the promised land and all the work He left for them to do in order to make it their home). He loves to work together, to chat and laugh and develop friendship while we do it, to teach me things he knows, to share food and drink, and at the end of the day, to rest and enjoy the progress. Sounds kind of like how things might have been in the Garden of Eden. I like that, and so I christen my work-in-progress yard…Eden.