I’m pretty sure that most things that matter in life can be learned in a garden.
My friend Mary is letting me help in her garden. I am a fairly inept gardener’s assistant. My mother and sister are wonderful gardeners as was my grandmother. I have long harbored the suspicion that gardening (like mechanical engineering and mathematics) skipped over me when talents were being handed out. Mary is a Master Gardener and her usual corps of teenage assistants are not yet available, so Mary is allowing me to help her reduce the weeds growing rampant in this peculiar early spring. I like it.
I sit in the dirt and pull up little weeds and break off dead stems and have a fine time. Mary gives me very detailed instructions on what to pull up and what to leave because I am not very good at identifying what is supposed to be growing and what is our enemy. I have accidentally pulled up a few things I was not supposed to, usually when their roots became entwined around dead stalks that I pulled with a little too much gusto. But far more often my mistake is to leave growing what should not be there. That is one of the many things a Master Gardener knows that I do not.
I grow fond of the little green shoots sticking up between the rocks or under a larger plant and I find it hard to believe I am supposed to uproot the harmless little things. Only with Mary’s insistence do I yank them up. I have been astonished to learn that Mary even pulls out plants she likes because there are too many of them or they are in the wrong place, making it hard for something else to grow.
This is why there is so much to learn in a garden.
I have been trying to become a better gardener in my own life. I see little weeds in my life at every turn and often I am just as reluctant to pull them up— especially when they are still small, innocent-looking shoots.
My friends tell me that I have an astonishing capacity to ignore unpleasant truths. I think this is because these truths usually begin very small and I simply fail to notice them until they have become towering thistles blocking out the sun. Niggling fears of confrontation are left to grow when they could have been nipped out immediately. Difficult conversations, hard questions— all are so much easier to pluck when they are tiny weeds than after they’ve become large and deeply rooted.
A master gardener knows that it is not just removing the weed that is important, so is making room for the plants she wants to grow. Weeds take up space and consume energy. Weeds move into the sunlight and block it from the plants she is trying to encourage. Some plants might be welcome in the right environment, but a wise gardener knows when they do and do not belong and the sooner they are weeded the better the garden will be.
Again and again I am amazed how doing something briefly unpleasant, or facing an uncomfortable reality, frees me to be more creative, more carefree, more alive. Suddenly I feel I am getting my share of the sun. I am freer to grow.
By the end of the day I had pulled out buckets of weeds. It kept getting easier the longer I did it. I’m thinking, with a little practice, I might not be such a bad gardener after all.
Till next time,