I have two very distinct memories of gardening from my childhood. Well, to be fair, I have a multitude of gardening memories but only two where I was actually involved. All the rest are of my mom working tirelessly sun up to sun down in her yard uniform: long sleeve t-shirt, black workout pants, hair in a pony, old tennis, and gardening gloves. Meanwhile I read a book indoors and watched her warily from my window in prayer and supplication that she would somehow forget I was there and decide not to tap on my window and yell for me to come help her. With anything. I was a delightful child.
One Saturday afternoon during 8th grade I had obviously not prayed hard enough and my mom remembered she had a home grown helper just sitting inside. She called me to the yard and handed me a tall four pronged tool and showed me how to turn the dirt. I looked it up and one website called it a garden weasel. Appropriate. Other sites called it a cultivator or a tiller. I thought it was a torture device and begrudgingly turned all the dirt up and down the garden paths and around the trees. All the while keeping a nervous eye out for lizards. I remember my mom laughing and saying, “Heather, it’s important to learn how to do these things because one day you will have your own garden and you will want it to look fabulous.” I woke up the next morning sore from head to toe and thought to myself, “No ma’am, I will not have a garden. I will pave the whole thing and we’ll play four square every day, but I will not have a garden.”
That same afternoon my dad called me out of my cave and said, “Let’s go buy some flowers to plant around the trees.” We went and picked out lots of maroon and white petunias and spent the rest of the afternoon digging little holes in the freshly turned earth and filling them with tiny bouquets. When we were done we stepped back and admired our work. The ground around the trees looked like it was sprinkled with purple and white confetti. My mom said we had done a beautiful job and reminded me that had I not done the hard work the day before, we wouldn’t have such a lovely garden today. I’m sure my middle school brain did not receive that nugget of wisdom well, but something about it must have struck me as important because I still remember it clear as a bell today.
In my first post this year I wrote about wanting to be a finisher. I displayed my very sad pot of soil that I’d been staring at for months in the hopes that it would inspire me to grow something. I decided to muster up my inner Nancy Pearl and plant a few things. I never thought I would be even remotely interested in plants because I always go back to the memory of turning the soil and how much work it was and how I didn’t want to do it. But then I’m reminded of the next day and planting petunias and how rewarding it was a couple of weeks later to see how they thrived in the soil I turned myself!
I still don’t have a garden but I have several house plants brightening up the apartment. I don’t necessarily have a green thumb, and I know next to nothing about keeping plants alive. I am a plant murderer several times over. But I am a master Googler and I like to learn new things so that helps.
Kudos to me for filling the pots and actually having follow through. I am trying my best to get better at that. I find that I’m good at keeping commitments and having follow through when they involve other people but when it’s just me, I will break a promise to myself with ease.
I’ve found my planting time to be therapeutic and I think I’m beginning to understand why my mom spends so much time tending her garden. While my 13 year old self thought it was just more work, 20 years later I kind of get it. Plants require attention and care. They need to be fed sunlight and water and sometimes, when they’re wilty, additional nutrients. Plants need us to be patient and trust a process even though sometimes we can’t see the fruits of our labor right away. We trust that we are doing what is best. If we get impatient with a plant and maybe over water it, it might drown and wither. Plants teach us that in order to enjoy and admire the lovely things, the beautiful things, we have to do the hard work first.
And I guess that’s where I’m at. I’m doing the hard work. The work I don’t always want to do but work that needs to get done. I know that if I get impatient, I’ll do too much and burn out quickly. I’ll wither up like an over watered succulent. But eventually, if I’m diligent, if I’m relentless, and most importantly if I’m patient, I’ll get to the lovely things. The beautiful things.
Here’s to doing the hard work,
“He has made everything beautiful in its time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11