By Eric Herman
Last year in our May issue, I put a deliberately upbeat spin on market conditions that had prompted us at WaterShapes to switch temporarily to a bimonthly publishing schedule.
The tack I took did not go unnoticed. In the aftermath of our announcement, of course, many of you let us know that you were four-square behind the magazine and offered to pitch in to do whatever you could to help – all of which was and remains most appreciated. But there were others who, in various ways, essentially told me that I was being unrealistic and naïve and that an economic cataclysm was at hand – input also appreciated despite its bracing effect.
Now as we swing into a new decade, I’m ready to open myself to barbs from the doomsayers once again.
I think we can all agree that this lingering recession has been deeper and more protracted than any other downturn anyone has experienced since the Great Depression. Some of us have come through hard times better than others, but there’s no doubt the suffering has been widespread and profound. For my part, the optimist in me has never let go the historical fact that all economic events are cyclical and that, inevitably, things will turn around. That, of course, is cold comfort as things have unfolded for more than two years now.
As 2010 came to a close, however, even the skeptics have to concede that signs of recovery are starting to surface, at least so far as the overall economy is concerned. I feel the warm fires of hope and hear almost every day from watershapers who are enjoying the same sensation. It’s been slow and plodding and spotty, but it is progress nonetheless.
A few days before I sat down to write this column, I returned from the International Pool|Spa|Patio Expo in Las Vegas – and I can only hope the energy and enthusiasm I saw there will carry over into and indeed set the tone for the year to come. The show’s first day was easily the most active of any such event I’ve attended in recent years.
We were inundated at our booth all day, and lots of the conversations that started with gingerly expressions of “cautious optimism” soon took a turn: Where these watershapers knew it was still too early to say (and they didn’t want to jinx anything), almost to a person they were seeing an encouraging uptick in the marketplace, especially among upscale clients who are apparently growing weary of sitting on their money and now are ready at last to move forward with projects.
I also heard about lots of long-pending projects that had gotten under way only recently because clients were finally able to secure funding that had been excruciatingly tough to get during the past two years. And since I’ve returned, several people who didn’t have time to chat in detail during the show have called to share their own messages of hope and encouragement.
Helpfully, the upbeat tone flows from manufacturers as well as watershapers, so prospects for WaterShapes seem to be brightening a bit as well.
At the risk of again being labeled as a hopelessly deranged optimist, I’m going to step out on a limb and suggest that the coming year will be the one that sees the ice break up and gives all of us a chance to step away from gloom and doom and toward confidence and success. It’s time for the drumbeat of negativity to cease and for pipes of joy to sound.
And let’s face it: Defeatism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. As tough as things have been, I never let myself go there, never let the magazine shift its focus away from inspiration and toward mere survival, never gave up on the thought that watershaping is a noble activity whose practitioners deserve praise and success rather than the economic lash.
With all due respect to those of you who think I’m unrealistic, why would you have it any other way?