Our Chakra garden, and much of the rest of our property, is lit with solar LED lighting. This has been a mixed miracle; whereas some of the solar lights we’ve put in have been incredibly beautiful, spectacular sights each evening when we tour the garden after dark (our favorite time to visit), some of the lights have been spectacular disappointments. Some light nicely for about two or three weeks and then fail, and when we open them up to investigate, we find rusty, corroded contacts, swollen batteries, and clogged weep holes that were intended to drain the water but don’t do their job. Others turn on reliably enough but the color isn’t right; they’re blue-white or greenish instead of the welcoming warm white we prefer.
So I’ve learned to read reviews. I get on the websites for Home Depot or Lowe’s and I look to find out what others have said about the lighting systems I’m considering. Only rarely are the reviews unanimous in their praise; usually it’s an odd mix of people who love the light, found them brighter than expected, and were impressed by how easily they installed and how long they last even in the long nights and short days of winter, and the other people who hate the light quality, found they only lasted two months, and returned them. I take these reviews with a big grain of salt—both sides of the issue—because there are some people who are complainers, and others who are trying to justify spending a hundred bucks or so on a set of lights and are doing their best to feel good about their purchase.
But I read those reviews, judging a product by consensus, looking for details in the comments of reviewers that reflect my own concerns and interest. I try to find out objective information about the quality of the light, how long the lights stay on, and I look for surprised customers—those who found a product to be much better than expected, or a splendid value for the money spent. I tend to disregard the occasional gripe about longevity, partly because I’m an eternal optimist and partly because I hold a fairly low opinion, to be honest, about the ability of many consumers to follow directions and perform correct installations. But when 40 or 50 percent of the reviews complain, I skip that purchase, no matter how low the store has reduced the price.
Reviews mean a lot to us at Heartwood as well. The people who go through the yoga teacher training program find, almost without exception, that their lives have been changed and they seem thrilled and surprised at how much they get out of it. Ginny and Melina do an amazing job of teaching; they’re a dynamic, thoughtful, insightful, and passionate pair, and I can’t help but be in awe of how they do their job. I love teaching the occasional anatomy or physiology class and getting great feedback, but I’ve also had the chance lately to sit in on some of their newer RYT-200 classes, and I’ve been overwhelmed at the level of teaching they do. I took the very first RYT-200 course that Ginny held, more than three years ago. Since that time, she’s trained over 150 yoga teachers, and she’s learned so much along the way. Melina was in that first course with me, and then she took it again, and then starting helping Ginny, and it’s a profound truth that we learn best by teaching others.
So of course, most of the reviews that get published on the Yoga Alliance website as newly certified teachers register their credentials and are invited to rate the school and comment on its work are glowing, well-considered, thoughtful expressions of just how much ReFlex Arts and Heartwood have done to change a life. But there’s always going to be the exception. We got hit by an exception a while back, and were shocked by it. We’d had a student who had been a struggle for Ginny and Melina—a woman who missed half the sessions and slept through others, who always seemed to need a special meeting or extra time from me to discuss anatomy lectures she’d missed, or practice time with Melina to learn a posture or assist. Ginny didn’t think she was ready to graduate but she insisted she needed her certificate to keep her job, and she promised up and down that she’d come back to attend the sessions she’d missed. It was imperative that she show up for a weekend training, for example, but she missed the Friday night session, showed up at noon for the Saturday that everyone else had started at 8 AM, and then appeared for only an hour on Sunday.
So her review gave the studio only 6 out of a possible 10 points, and stated something to the effect that she didn’t necessarily think she’d gotten all out of the course that had been promised, but that she thought the program had now been improved. We hated the implication that the studio had underdelivered, feeling that the truth was quite different. But it happens. It makes me wonder if manufacturers are looking over the reviews of their solar lights, or their lawn mowers, or their portable drills, and experiencing the same anguish over the mix of complaints and praise. The Internet has changed so much about our lives. Where we used to get word-of-mouth recommendations or complaints, now we have fingertip access to virtually anything, and it’s not always reliable.
Nor are our solar lights. We’ve had some lights along the wedding walk that turn on every night, light brightly, and are often still running in the morning if we get out to feed the koi while it’s still early dawn and the sun hasn’t come out enough to turn them off. But now there’s one which, for some unexplained reason, refuses to come on at all. So eleven of them look great still, and one is a total slacker. I bought a bagful of rechargeable batteries at Harbor Freight a few days, and made the rounds yesterday to replace any non-functioning cells, but in the case of the wedding walk light, the battery is an odd-sized cell that’s going to be a specialty product. The same holds true for the twin lanterns that used to brightly light the front gate; where one of them is entwined with jasmine but still shines for hours after dark, the other is totally clear of vines but doesn’t provide the slightest glimmer, and it holds a four-cell pack that has an expensive look about it. I’ll find out today, I guess. And the three-way remote panel that powers some of the floodlights has three cells in it that are also going to be pricey because they’re unusual.
We have four strings of solar lights that Ginny wound around the copper arbor in the garden, back when we had almost no natural vine to cover it. Three of those are still doing fine, but one has failed completely. I think a wiring repair will return that to service. Our gazebo at the wedding walk is wrapped tightly with copper fairy lights, miniature LEDs that are waterproof but fragile in the extreme. Several of those suffered at the hands of our first wedding party, with wires being cut or pulled apart when decorations were removed. Life goes on, but the LEDs do not. Ginny has wrapped several more strands and the gazebo looks great again, but this may be an ongoing expense for Heartwood when we finally get a permit and start holding weddings.
So now I’m looking at alternatives to solar. I found sources for LED replacements for conventional incandescent landscape bulbs, and they turn out to be fantastic. We had powered lights along the walkway and bridge from the house to the yoga studio here at Heartwood, and our rambunctious dogs had killed all but one of the incandescent bulbs. Replacements are very expensive, so I went to warm white LEDs. Not only are they not damaged by being knocked about, they’re brighter, beautiful, and they drain only about ten percent of the power that the others did. So now I can add other lights, and I’m getting ready to do just that. We’re putting in floods and small lights to make Ginny’s bottle garden prettier after dark, and to light up some of the interesting globes and vases that were solar-lit but lasted only a few weeks due to water damage. I can’t wait to see this garden in all its glory again, because Ginny’s face lights up when the place looks good. Life looks good.