Saturday, February 14, 2009

"Peace, Love and Goodwill"

What do you do when you encounter an obstacle? Do you run away? Do you get angry? Do you feel depressed? Do you feel defeated? Or does that obstacle inspire you to rise above the challenge and do something creative?

Pearl Fryar is the son of a sharecropper living in Bishopville, SC. His life was full of obstacles: he is black, grew up in poverty and people did not want him living in their neighborhood. They thought he would not keep up his yard to their standards. But instead of letting that stop him, it inspired him to create a topiary garden that was so creative it has drawn national and international attention. Fryar says, "In this life you're gonna have obstacles. The thing about it is, don't let those obstacles determine where you go."

This garden did not happen overnight or in a matter of weeks. It took years of love, dedication, passion and hard work to create an interplay of lines and curves with his bushes and trees that have touched the hearts of thousands of people. His garden is a vision of inspiration and artistry that cannot be duplicated because it comes from his heart.
Pearl was inspired to work hard and have big dreams by Jackie Robinson who broke the racial barriers in professional baseball. "Every kid in my neighborhood played baseball, and in 1947, when Jackie Robinson broke into the majors, he became our first role model," recounted Pearl.

His topiary career began when he took a $2 discarded plant from a local nursery and was given a 5-minute lesson on trimming from the nursery owner. He went home and began to create sculpture. Not only does he create amazing living works of art from his plants, but he has plants growing in his garden that would be considered impossible to live, much less thrive, in the climate of South Carolina.

After working 10-hour days in an
aluminum can factory, Pearl would come home and work on his garden often until 1 am in the morning by the light of a street light the local power company installed to help him out. Retired from that job, he is now the artist-in-residence at Coker College. He speaks about his life and philosophy to audiences as diverse as the garden club at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to the elementary school kids in Bishopville, S.C.

Pearl has a message he wants to impart with his life and art. When he talks to children in schools he will walk in and say, "Look, I grew up on a farm and walked several miles to school. But I taught myself to be an artist, something I could make a living at. So don't let anyone dictate where you go in life".

Pearl has created three words in 4-foot letters from bushes in his yard: Peace, Love and Goodwill. That is his inspiration. That is his message to the world.

There are so many examples of inspiration around us. The real inspiration lies within. It is our attitudes that shape our lives. It is our habits in thinking and action that propel us to realize our potential or not.

Practicing yoga is a great opportunity to work with obstacles. This could be anything from tight hamstrings to impatience. So instead of getting frustrated with our limitations or obstacles, we can use them as an inspiration to grow and expand beyond them. This can take years. It is a process of forgiveness and persistence. Eventually our tight hamstrings become more open. Eventually our patience increases. If we start with the principle of opening to Grace anything is possible. If we are inspired by Peace, Love and Goodwill, we spread that message to others. It is in community that we inspire and grow together.

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