Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lessons from the Garden

Among the many words I use to describe to myself, this time of year, gardener is my favorite. You know how the smell of freshly mown grass trumpets "Spring" through the air? I like that well enough, but what really gets my heart pumping is the sight and smell of freshly tilled soil. I don't see "dirt", I see opportunities, possibilities and many, many lessons, and that's my favorite part of being a gardener.

What kind of lessons can be found in the garden? Life lessons, of course! While they may often be disguised as simple plant trivia or pest control strategies, don't be fooled into thinking that God's not trying to convey a deeper meaning. For example, take the following:

You can't rush a cucumber.
Plants grow on their own schedule - not yours. Just because you've been delayed in planting your seeds or seedlings does not mean that the plants will rush to catch up to your preconceived notion of a schedule. Conversely, just because you're over anxious one year and get all those veggie seedlings in the ground a month early does not mean that you will be relishing those first cucumbers any earlier than usual. In fact, the plants may end up suffering in the oddball late frost. The gardener can not coax, cajole, bribe, or intimidate a plant into setting fruit before it is ready to do so. Cucumbers are fully developed and ready when they're ready and not 1 minute sooner.

Life lesson? Stop rushing. If it doesn't work for a cucumber, it's probably not going to work (in the long run) for people either. Life happens as it happens, other people will do as they do, so sit back, take a few deep breaths, and enjoy the ride. Let each experience in your life fully develop before you rush onto the next one. Corollary: Stop rushing your children, too....and your spouse...and your co-workers...and...well, you get the idea.

Companion planting works quite well.
Companion planting is the practice of planting different veggies and flowers right next each other to create a mutually beneficial growing environment. Corn stalks act as trellises and support for pole beans, parsley keeps tomato horn worms from eating the life out of your tomato plants, and marigolds keep all sorts of garden pests at bay while looking mighty pretty all the while.

Life lesson? Don't try to go it alone - buddy up. Companions of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds will bring many added benefits to your life. Plus, you'll get a chance to share your special gifts and talents with them, too. And just like in the garden, the best companions provide support and keep the pests at bay. ;-)

The gardener does not have total control.
You buy the best tomato seedlings, plant them deeply in perfectly amended soil, in the perfect location where they can soak up 6 hours of sun a day, and water at the roots, just enough, but not too much. What happens next? Along comes a blight and you harvest only a few sad little tomatoes, or you're assaulted by a freak summer hail storm that knocks all the green tomatoes off the vine, or that doggone groundhog takes just 3 bites out of each and every red tomato on the vines (can you tell I've had vast experience with groundhogs over the last few years?).

Gardening, my friend, is an optimist's game. While there's a lot that can be done to ensure a successful harvest, there is almost just as much that is totally out of the gardener's hands. We can only do our best and let nature take care of the rest.

Life lesson? Give up the need to constantly be in control of every piddly little detail in life. In fact, sometimes it's good to give up control of some big things, too. I know you're wondering who'll take control if we let it go. God, of course. Or the Creator, or your Higher Power, or the Universe...whatever name you choose to use for the One who made us and all that's around us. For just like gardening, life is an optimist's game. No one gets out alive. Take a chance and let someone else drive for a bit - I think you'll find it's a nice change of pace.

There's always more than enough to share.
When it comes to gardens and sharing, I have one word for you - zucchini. Fellow gardeners know exactly what I matter how few plants we plant each year, we end up with pounds and pounds of this prolific little beauty. Non-gardeners know exactly what I mean because every year their well-meaning gardening friends bring pounds and pounds of these little green beauties into work each and every day looking for a good home for them...preferably yours!

No matter how small a garden we have, even if it's a balcony garden grown in pots, there is always plenty to eat with more than enough to share. Gardeners hate to see the fruits of their labor go to waste, and, in all honesty, sharing helps us show off a little bit, too.

Life lesson? There's always more than enough to share. Whether it's our time, our knowledge, our patience, our talents, our laughter, our tears, our hopes, our dreams, or (especially) our love. There's always more than enough to share.

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