LIFE LESSONS FROM THE GARDEN
I unload the back of my SUV: stocks for my grandmother, pansies for my mother, snaps for me and a white geranium just because. In the garden, my focus narrows and my senses broaden. The frilly, pink stocks fill my head with a spicy scent that’s somewhere between cloves and cinnamon. My hearing zeros in on individual bird voices as they tease and court. They tell each other it’s spring, but our desert spring is coquettish—flirting one minute and withdrawing the next. Today the sun is warm, the breeze soft, and my backyard birds trust in the moment. I fill their feeder and scrutinize my over-planted garden. It’s going to be tight to find a few spots to squeeze in the newcomers and still have space to tuck in a few zinnia seeds here and there.
My eye catches a grouping of thumbprint pansies that need deadheading. As I reach between the blooms and pinch-off those that are spent, I’m hit with a moment of clarity. It stops me in my tracks. Gardening is the oddest juxtaposition of living in the moment and imagining the future. With every spent bloom deadheaded, I envision the new blooms that will pop out to replace it. Every seed planted is imagined as a full-blown flower or a broad-leafed summer squash plant.
In my garden I accept, without question, the saying "to everything there is a season". I know that deadheading keeps flowering plants strong and vigorous. Pruning results in refreshed rose bushes. Annual are meant to grow and peak, and then fade as the season changes. Seeds won’t germinate until the soil is the right temperature. In our tricky desert spring, trimming off woody stems too soon could mean frost-damaged new growth. Timing can be challenging. Humility soon follows impatience in desert gardening.
So many of our successes and failures in life involve timing. Understanding that love isn’t enough, and a relationship may not work because each person is in a very different point in their life. Knowing when to speak and when to stay silent. Holding on to a friendship that’s outlived its season or no longer brings joy. Recognizing when it’s time to change ideological direction, geographic location, or occupation. Recognizing that “until death do us part” sometimes means saving the marriage but destroying the people. Breaking away from the demands of others that drain our energy and absorb our precious days.
Timing and deadheading. I wonder if I can pinch off and toss away everything I beat myself up over: words both spoken and left unsaid, opportunities missed, a tendency to say yes when I should say no, difficulty standing up for myself and a need for approval I should have outgrown decades ago. Can I learn to deadhead without qualms to encourage vigorous and positive personal growth? Can old dogs learn new tricks? We’ll see. It’s not over ‘till it’s over.
LOBBING THOSE BALLS
Here we are, not quite a week into the New Year, and both my holiday-inspired energy and my adrenaline surge from seeing my novel in print have receded. I’ve finally crashed from the high and I've flat-lined.This morning I slept late, made myself some scrambled eggs and coffee, and took everything and the dogs back to bed. I wanted just to veg in front of some mindless TV show. Can’t get much more mindless than “Married at First Sight.” Yup. That says it all.
By now my 2020 to-do list should be in place, but it’s not even been started. I can’t remember when I’ve opened a calendar on a new year without a firm set of written goals to guide me. And, yes, I’m one of those annoying people who crosses out goals and accomplishments as each one is met. It gives me a great feeling of satisfaction.
The end of 2019 was a whirlwind. In fact the entire year sped by in a blur. None of the miscellaneous personal projects on my 2019 list ever made it past the planning stages. Another year has gone by without me making an appointment for a general medical checkup. That particular “to do” was an undone leftover from my 2018 calendar. Maybe this will be the year of the checkup. I still hope to create childhood photo albums for each of my nieces. Hope is the keynote word here. And one of these years I truly will get those twenty-year-old kitchen counter-tops replaced. Another unmet goal was to learn how to use my new laptop and Windows 10, but I’ve let that laptop sit untouched for so long, my husband has taken it over. Sigh. We won’t even discuss the fabulous Canon camera he bought me that I have still to master. So much for the tasks left undone.
But—and this is big—I did finalize my manuscript for Dancing Between the Beats. One, big, bold cross-off. I’m starting 2020 with a novel in print, and (my mouth to God’s ear) will soon accumulate reviews. Huge! Another biggie was selling my fourteen-year-old Camry in early 2019 and buying a new car! If you haven’t read my December 2018 post entitled Kicking the Tires, give it a look. I tried hollyhocks in my garden last year, and they were spectacular (picture above.) I can also cross “Work with Watercolors” off last-year’s list. Well, sort of. I tentatively slapped some paint down and created a couple of small, starter, watercolor paintings. “Learn To Paint with Watercolors” will be added to 2020’s list. Unfortunately, “Lose Weight” will also shift over to the top of 2020’s to-do list. Without my lists I might just munch chocolates and read books all day.
However, as great as having goals might be, to avoid feeling letdown or unproductive, flexibility is the key. Resolutions, lists, goals etc., are much like the old adage, “rules are only guidelines”. Most of our disappointments are born out of unrealistic expectations. The new revolution around the sun we started on Solstice is a wonderful time to reflect and regroup, but life will always throw us curve balls. It’s up to us whether we lob them back, hit them out of the park, or let them knock us out. Either way, life goes on with us or without us, lists or no lists. Resiliency is the name of the game.
So, while I wish you happiness in the new year, I'll balance that wish with the hope that 2020 offers contentment, opportunities to grow, and enough successes to balance the inevitable disappointments. May we all still be here at the close of 2020 to optimistically wish each other a Happy New Year once again.
Lynn Nicholas - AUTHOR oF Dancing Between The Beats
My blog is a window into my world. My slice-of-life narratives are triggered by life's