Thursday, April 26, 2007

More thoughts from the Garden

I'll admit it. I have spring fever. Spring is my favorite time of the year. There is so much possiblity! So I guess I shouldn't be surprised that my thoughts were back in the garden this morning as I walked the dog. Two more lessons:

1. I can't grow some things. Poppies, lupines, roses. These have continually eluded my efforts. I have tried again and again. But to no avail. Roses are admittedly fussy plants, but poppies and lupines are wildflowers. They are supposed to be easy. Not for me. I have stopped trying and now just enjoy them in other's gardens.

The same can be said of many things in life. I can't skate. I can't ski on water or land. I can't play a musical instrument. I can't sculpt very well at all. I can't seem to make a list and follow it. We could go on all day long. But the point is not what I can't do.

We can spend time agonizing and beating our heads against the wall all day long about the things we can't do well. We all have a list of those. But if we life our lives, or try to grow our garden from our inadequacies we end up with a bare garden, or less than fulfilling life. But if we try and focus on what we can do well, and nuture that, our lives and our garden will be vibrant and colorful.

2. Timing can help. The best time to plant most perennials is in the fall, just as they are starting to go into their dormant phase. It seems kind of crazy at first. Why would you plant them in the fall as they approach the cold of winter? While it may be cold on the surface, below the surface the temperature is more constant year round. So while a blanket of snow insulates the plants, and provides water as it melts, the roots are busy growing. All the energy can be focused below ground level. When the spring comes and the plant emerges, it is stronger and more vibrant than it was when you planted it.

If you plant a plant or shrub or tree just as it is about to bloom you are putting a terrible shock on the plant. Think about it. Do you want to move to a new house just as you are getting ready to immerse yourself in a large project......a show, a book, a new course of study? Most likely no. We need to be able to focus our energy on the task at hand. Not be diverted by another major undertaking. It takes a lot of energy for a plant to put on it's show for us. If you put it in the ground just before or during exhaust it. You can nurse it and baby it through this period. But it requires more energy and effort on your part, and by the plant.

Going in too many directions at one time or wanting immediate results seldom results in good long term outcomes. Or it requires a lot more energy and effort to succeed. We all need some periods of dormancy. We can't grow in every direction at once. Which leads to:

3. Pruning makes a tree healthier. My brother who bought that magnolia tree is now an arborist. He showed me how to prune back that very tree so that it would be healthier. Branches that were criss-crossing right next to one another will ultimately harm the tree. They will grow and rub against one another, wearing at the bark. Or they will grow into one another. This can create weaker areas in a tree that make it more vulnerable in a storm. The tree needs room to breath. And so do we.

Sometimes we have to prune away things in our lives. We have to look at where our energy is going. Is an activity feeding us on a deep level, or is it just draining energy away from the essential work in our lives? This is the hardest question to answer, and not easy to act upon either. Pruning a tree can be scary the first time, and can be disasterous if you don't know what you are doing. Pruning back your life to what is essential to you means asking some hard questions, and making some hard choices.

I have stopped volunteering at school unless it is something that requires me to bring my specific talents and skills. I used to read to my daughter's class when they had library once a week. And I would help out in my other daughter's class once a week. But it became precious time out of my studio. And when my kids came home I was more stressed because of that lost time. What I was doing was not so special, and could be easily done by someone else. There were lots of emotions around making the choice to pull away from that....guilt near the top. But I don't regret the choice.

I regularly look at my work and try to decide what needs to go, or when something will ultimately need to go. As we grow, we need to prune back as well to stay healthy and vibrant. Doing some pruning in our lives can help us breath. And we all know, breathing is good!

So, does your garden grow??


Molly said...

I love #3-pruning makes a tree healthier...last month I attended a seminar through my church and they were talking about puzzle peices and what fits. Very similar illustration.

Something may look like a great thing and it may look like a part of your puzzle, but in reality, it just doesn't is someone elses piece.

Judy said...

I like your last sentence Molly....very well said!

Elaine said...

My garden grows in a few carefully placed containers on my balcony. There's usually a few pots of unkillable flowers and some of veggies and herbs. Extremely limited space, budget and time.

And know what? It works as a metaphor for my life too. Creativity works well within limitations though, as long as the limitations are not walls.

Judy said...

Thanks Elaine. This metaphor thing is contagious isn't it? It seems there are lessons to be found all around us.