“To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
While I was looking for something to keep myself busy this weekend while I waited impatiently for the new season of “Mad Men,” I decided to plant a raised garden. (Can you believe the way they were throwing Joan’s baby around when she visited the office?) Anway, back to the garden. I got some scraps of lumber and borrowed an electric screwdriver. After a couple of visits to the hardware store to get those metal things that hold corners together, I managed to cobble together a pretty decent rectangle box to put my dirt in.
I positioned the box in the sunniest part of my shady backyard and dug up the grass in the rectangle. My labradoodle stuck her front feet in and sort of scraped around, but she’s not much of a digger. Her help was more on the emotionally supportive side. After I dug up the grass and weeds, I put down some of that black mesh weed-blocker stuff, and then I got to throw in the dirt. That was the fun part. I used several bags of dirt, then some gunk from our compost pile, which didn’t quite fill it up, so I had to go buy a few more bags of dirt. I planted lettuce, spinach, radishes, basil, a couple of tomato plants and arugula — a salad garden!! The whole thing took about six or seven hours. Now, I have to wait.
My gardening and landscaping has been a work in progress for a number of years. It occured to me that planting things is kind of like having children. I guess that’s not such a unique analogy — isn’t there something about that in the bible and about a million other works of literature? But maybe that tired old comparison is worth revisiting. Our culture tends to be more product oriented than process oriented. We focus on the end result and can’t wait for the process along the way. Growing plants forces you into patience.
With our children, too often we think about what they’re going to “be” rather than just allowing them to be. Adults are always asking little kids what they’re going to be when they grow up or teenagers what they’re going to major in. On TV, we see end results appear in a weekend. Just watch one of the home and garden channels. A completely landscaped yard with mature trees, flowers and shrubs is planted overnight! A kitchen is done in a flash. Need a new bathroom? It only takes 48 hours! It’s no wonder we can’t stop and enjoy the process.
Gardens and children require a certain amount of hard work, tending, faith and luck. Sometimes things don’t go as planned. As I’ve learned things about gardening and about children through trial and error over the years, I’ve had to make adjustments. Young plants, like young children, need more hands-on attention, while more mature plants and young adults can just be enjoyed for what they’ve become.
As I looked around my yard this weekend, I realized how many plants were there because friends, neighbors and family had given them to me. It’s that way with kids, too. They don’t grow up in a vacuum and I’m grateful for all the teachers, friends and relatives who have helped me nurture my children over the years.
OK, my garden analogy is getting a little too sentimental. I’m not a patient person, so I know I’ll go out there and look at my box of dirt every day to see if something is coming up. But having children has taught me to slow down and enjoy the process along the way because life isn’t only about the head of lettuce or the red tomato. It’s also about the pleasure of building the box and filling it with dirt.