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.
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