Sunday, June 27, 2010

Life Lessons from A Garden

A pre-dawn walk, a gentle stroll, an out-and-about on The Farm, dog by your side, AM coffee, and my mind's eye sees so many life lesson in my gardens. Reminders of how to live life well from the simplicity of varying views at home across the pond. How often do we take the time to see snapshots of our life as we amble. Most lives are so filled with doing, with hectic lists, always pushing forward, rushing. When do we slow down life just enough perhaps to be inside of life moments. My school year gives me few opportunities to do what I relish in summer vacations, sad but true. So I am guilty of living in the rush, those future moments, scads of to-dos, too much to manage. Perpetual overload. Vacations should be more than a few weeks to settle down and into a slower style; vacations should remind us how we should bring balance to our work world.

A miniature hosta, viewed in close range, seems larger than it really is. It struggles to survive close to the big pond, nestled in shale, surrounded by large branches reaching to shade its growth. It is protected from all but children overstepping into its territory, eager to see the minnow farm under the pond grass we never cut. Or catch a resting frog or a sleeping lizard. But viewed in perspective, this single hosta is really quite small, so it's ability to thrive is a small miracle, against the odds of nature, shale soil, snakes that like to coil around it, surviving the vicissitudes of happenstance. Still, it blooms where it's planted.

Some small things evolve as volunteers in unlikely places, with little sustenance and scant opportunity for survival. Yet this simple fern finds a foothold for life amid large rocks above the main holding pond. Like the fern, can we learn to live with less, firmly rooted in a hard place and still thrive and grow. Can we find opportunity between a rock and a literal hard place. Can we, in everything give thanks as a single fern frond does.

Some things thrive naturally, adapting to an environment, and grow to huge proportions, adding beauty. They are steady, strong, predictable reminders of consistency. The ravages of time do not touch them; rather, time seems to nourish growth, a friend to giants.

Like the lights that activate only at night, things need sustenance to thrive. Even these lights lose power after a week of poor lighting conditions. Sometimes even less light mutes them. The small red plant struggles but succeeds to make a single flower, yet it manages to spread its tap roots to another nearby location.

This plant has struggled to survive against serious setbacks. Three times it has been eaten by nearby small wildlife, and each time it bounces back, shorter and wider, but stronger. Its remarkable resiliency guarantees it will one day flower and become an attraction to butterflies. Small yellow buds on shorter-than-normal stems soon will flower.

On occasion, mistakes prove productive. Too many times someone has squashed our drainpipe. Naturalizing the problem with large rocks that grow in abundance on The Farm after a rain reminds me to keep my life in balance. Even a small disturbance could shift the scene to something less harmonious, so I do a daily check to see the stones remain intact.

Walking back to my porch, I spy Et Cetera, the elegant sophisticated young lady in my herd. She never startles; even when the herd suspects danger, she raises her beautiful head and scans the landscape. Unruffled, she is the constant in the herd, not the guardian, but each has a purpose and provides a function to make the group a cohesive unit.

So many life lessons can be learned from a simple stroll. When I began this post, I intended it for my llama blog, and so it appears there. But it works equally well as a Beating Back Cancer post. All of us have at some point in our lives, perhaps several points, where we need to cope with a serious health setback. While it does not need to be cancer, still we can find solace and hope by taking life lessons from a garden. Or pasture. Then, I thought about the students I teach each year. Perhaps the most profound lessons from a garden can be applied to my students. Haven't I seem all of them, in some permutation or variation, in my classroom.

Sometimes I wish I could shut down my mind's working as I walk or work. I wish I could see something for what it is and not for the blog post it could be or becomes. My mother once told me that my brother, David, had the ability to see life so much differently than the rest of us. Does that ability course through a family, or am I finally becoming more like my younger sibling, seeing life as he does, through a special lens.

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