I have a lot of hobbies; gardening is the most serious. I was introduced to the wonders of plants as a child. Like all hobbies, my garden has grown along with my knowledge and income.
There are few things in life more satisfying than your own garden. The never-ending metaphor for life – a garden offers more than beauty – it offers insight. Here’s a few things I’ve learned from mine:
Anyone Can Change the World
When I was a kid, we lived in a very small apartment. The path from the alley to the back porch was filled with rocks and gravel. It was litter-free, and most renters would have left it alone, but not my Mom and Grandmother. We bought seeds and as soon as Spring would allow, we filled discarded egg cartons with dirt and germinated our crops in the sunny basement windows. Once hardened, my brothers and I dutifully transplanted our seedlings into their assigned places. Over the summer, the Marigolds grew, the Sunflowers blossomed, the Morning Glories climbed through the chain link. We learned to weed and mulch and water. It didn’t matter that I was five, and poor, and lived in a horrible place in a sketch area of town: We made the world a better place, and everyone around us knew it, too.
Gardening is the most egalitarian of hobbies, which is why I love it so. Gardening taught me not to accept my circumstance: I could always make things better for me and for others. Rich or poor, young or old, gifted or dull: Anyone can grow a beautiful sunflower.
Life is Filled With Death and Failure
Over my lifetime, I’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars on all kinds of (expensive) plants that — despite my best efforts — have died. Even more annoying are those that linger and never thrive. Despite 50 years of gardening and my amazing green thumb, I am not immune from disappointment and failure. Not everyone can grow everything well.
Talking about death and failure is something we just don’t do anymore, and I wish we would. Whether painful or shameful, it’s these dark moments that make us change our course. Only from death and failure do we learn and grow.
Don’t envy beautiful gardens. Gardens aren’t born, they evolve. Failure is part of the evolution. The garden has taught me to accept it, learn from it, even plan for it, but most importantly, to let it go. Failure forces you to look for causes, patterns, alternatives. If it weren’t for those dead petunias, I would have never found succulents. Today, I have a collection that horticulturalists envy.
Laziness is Sweet; but it’s Consequences are Cruel
Voltaire (also a fan of the garden), is correct in his observation. Mother nature is an impatient mistress, and she’s not going to wait around for you to “feel” motivated.
Consistent effort is required to achieve anything in life of real value: Good relationships, successful careers, continued health. They all require consistent effort.
My garden has taught me that procrastinating unpleasant tasks can make them more daunting than they really are. By using the one-hour rule, which is do <whatever work you’re avoiding> for just one hour, I’ve found I almost always able to accomplish more than I originally thought.
Like affection, effort is never wasted. An hour to till even the smallest garden can lift and inspire others. And, isn’t that what life is all about?