Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lessons in a Garden

So, it's almost midnight and I'm sleeping down in the basement guestroom with three of my kids as we try to keep Adam from getting the gumboo we all have. It's too hot and I can't sleep and as my little "daysies" snore and chatter in their dream worlds I feel like posting thoughts I've had while watering my garden.

I have to water our flowers and our little square-foot garden twice a day this summer.   Our sprinklers don't reach most of them and I've procrastinated planting until right before the hot season and they aren't established enough to withstand the heat - they need babying. I've already lost the vine near the front porch - scorched by the brick getting too hot I presume - it was doing well until I had the idea to stake up the stray guys to the trellis. Now their crisp and dried leaves and stems make me feel like I tied them up to be burned at the stake.

It takes me about ten minutes each time to rake up the dirt a bit around their roots so the water will penetrate deep enough and not run off into the groove instead. Then my watering can be more effective at inoculating them against the hot day ahead.

The moments of solitude while nurturing my garden are some of the only moments of solitude I get all day. I actually have time to think and ponder. Out there in the summer air in the morning or evening I look at my flowers and tomatoes and cucumbers and newly planted strawberries my kids have so much hope for and I feel like I'm staring at a metaphor of life. Different things will strike me. Such as tonight . . .

Line upon Line - and at the Right Time

I've found it does no good to water in the heat of the day - the water has no time to absorb into the plants before it is evaporated by the sun. I know I need to water at night when it is cool and the plants have the best conditions to absorb the water - in the morning I can almost see the growth from just one day if I water at the right time.

Likening this to my life helps me understand something. When I have felt much like my plants - worn out, tired and wilted from the trials and daily experiences of life, I hunger for guidance, truth, comfort - for living water. I've tasted it before, I know it's available to me, I know its power to heal, to lift me up, to help me grow. But it doesn't always come when I want. I'm starting to understand why, now.

 Maybe if I was always given that help exactly when I think I needed it most I wouldn't be ready for it. I wouldn't absorb the "nourishment" as well.   It was better to wait through the refiners fire a bit longer.  Then I was ready to be molded and shaped.  I have looked back many times after being "watered" and have seen what I couldn't see before; I realized why I had to first go through the "heat of the day" in a summer season of life.

It strikes me that this metaphor is also helpful in understanding why it's not always a good time to try to teach or relate something to another person. I might learn something, something that is life-changing for me or maybe just something I find helpful or interesting and I may want to share it with people I care about. But it might be just as pointless as trying to teach a beginning piano student an advanced song that I find inspiring, that I am enjoying learning.  There wouldn't be much help in that.

It's Easier To Weed Often and Soon

There is a spot of ground in our backyard that gets neglected. A few spots, really, but the point is that the weeds feel at home there. They are weeded once a year usually and their roots and seeds are so prevalent that there is not a way I will ever have it under control without taking out the dirt and starting over. I am always thinking - if I would have just been more diligent in weeding in the beginning when there were only one or two. They wouldn't have seeded and been allowed to take over like this.

Now I am determined to let the hostas, lillies and bleeding heart have the place to themselves. That means I have to weed frequently. And I always will. It's a consequence of having let the weeds run wild.

I know of friends whose lives are like my shade garden. They've let the weeds of their life take over and lead their life for so long that there are more weeds than flowers.

But now they want to take their life back. They don't like the weeds, the way they make them feel, the loss of control they have over their own happiness. And they can do it. Some have taken their agency back, some are on their way. For most, they will have to "weed" every day, though. Sometimes the weeds sneak up on them and it will take a good tilling of the ground to get back in control.

For a while they'll feel relief, but there are some weeds that can survive even then. They might have to put forth a conscious effort for a very long time. It will be a struggle. That's the consequence of having let the weeds run wild. If that's wasn't the way things were designed, who would weed? There wouldn't be the motivation. And yet, for some, I've heard of times where they feel they reach a point where they're given new ground. That the weeds are few and far between. Like a little miracle.

It's just like the spot in our front yard. We didn't realize the sprinklers were never hitting it and it was watered infrequently for years. We finally paid Adam's cousin to hull a ton of dirt away because it was a barren waste land that anything but weeds could not survive in - I'd tried two years in a row. There was no nutrition left and no room in the flower bed to mix in new soil without it piling up too high. So we brought in new dirt and planted anew and there is hope for that plot of land again.

I know others who have decided to give in to the weeds and take on a kind of twisted pride in their wild ruin of a garden. Or they just pretend that they don't care. Why should they bother?

I can never look at that kind of garden without sadness. Sadness at the potential beauty that has been lost. At the roses and peonies and daisies and other flowers that could have grown up there. At the joy that could have been shared and beautiful memories and relationships that could have been nurtured in such a welcoming place.

Instead, there are ugly thorny weeds, small flowered spindly things and prickly plants that aren't welcoming, plants that say - stay away, leave us alone. They are usually lonely gardens. They never feel at home with their weeds deep down. Because they weren't meant to be that way. And they know it.

Every garden is different, each has its unique purpose and design. I'm not the Gardener, I don't understand why some receive new ground and others have to keep fighting the weeds. I have a garden myself that I'm no master at caring for. Even when I feel at times that the weeds are under control, there is pruning and watering and designing, planning, balance, pest control, winter preparation and on and on. It all makes my head swirl at times. I'm just glad to know there is a Master Gardener that understands it all. A creator who has a plan I can learn about, a guide book to look through and find answers. And countless gardens to enjoy and learn from.

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