This week marks the return to school for students in many parts of the world. Even for those who are just starting, it’s a new beginning.
I still remember when I started my last year leading to graduation. Though the finality of receiving my degree seemed absolute, it was actually the beginning of another chapter in my life.
September is special. Autumn may smell to some of leaves, cold and frost, but to me fall smells of opportunities, anticipation and excitement.
When I worked in a policy job, fall signalled the re-opening of the House of Assembly, with its accompanying launch of legislation, regulatory reviews and discussion of new agendas, the revamping of old ones and the burying of old ones, depending the direction of the political winds blowing through. We often didn’t know of some of the things that would arrive that time of year, but it was still an opening to change.
When I became a mom, fall signalled other beginnings: the first day of school, the first backpack, the first package of scribblers and the newly sharpened pencils pregnant with possibilities. There would be new teachers and classrooms and new classmates and friendships to make.
The fall is a constant state of discovery even while some things feel the same. Cleaning up the garden reveals the missing potato plant, or the forgotten tools, while inside the house, you discover four sets of single, left hand only gloves that surely had their mates last spring when the snow finally melted.
I was watching a small child the other day and it was clear everything was new and different with discoveries to be found and shared. That unfettered curiosity is something we often forget to bring out as adults and yet fall makes it possible for that joy to return, whether it is the finding of the first red leaf, the first ripe blueberry, or even the last bloom on the resurrected rose.
As my fall planning begins, I am struck by how useful it is always to look at new beginnings while maintaining our focus on our plans and goals.
Several years ago, I visited Sagrada Familia in Barcelona for the first time. It is a church designed by Antoni Gaudí, who designed a variety of buildings in Spain and elsewhere until the church consumed his work for the last 43 years of his life.
It’s a fantastic creation, unlike anything else. The church was still unfinished when Gaudí died in 1926, and the work continues today. The goal is to finish by 2026, the hundredth anniversary of Gaudí’s death.
The church is remarkable, not only for Gaudí’s innovative design, but also for the fact that the execution of his vision remains true to the original designs. It really makes you think about why this is so given how often designs get tweaked, not to mention those whose creators have been gone as long as Gaudí.
I wonder how strong the temptation was to adjust the direction the church was taking to complete the building. Gaudí’s designs feel quite contemporary and they are breathtakingly beautiful. However, they are not what I or many others would have ever thought suitable for a church.
The focus on nature and organic forms is obvious — the columns are tree trunks, the baptismal fonts are sea shells, and the window shapes are cross sections of plant cells.
Though some of the designs have been lost due to wartime destruction and time, the team is using three dimensional printers to recreate the models they need to finish. They are adapting the tools and materials they need to complete the church rather than changing the design itself.
The lesson we can learn from Sagrada Familia is how important having and sharing a vision is to its execution, whether it is building a church or making a plan for your life or work or family.
Long before Apple turned it into a tagline, Gaudí was already thinking differently. So should we all.
Martha Muzychka is a writer and consultant. Email: email@example.com.