I was standing in the garden on Sunday morning, looking around as I drank my tea, thinking what a metaphor this little plot of land is for my life.
Some of the plants and flowers I've planted on my own. Sometimes I make careful choices, other times I'm completely whimsical and eccentric about what I buy and where I plant it. But no matter what's there, I love watching everything grow, charting its progress, mourning the loss if something doesn't make it through the winter, scowling with amusement if I discover that the squirrels or birds have devoured something.
A few of the plants are expensive, a true investment that I had to wait and count my pennies before buying. Others are end-of-season sale items, bedraggled orphans that have one last gasp of life in them and barely survive the journey home. I nurture both equally and am just as happy (maybe happier) when the cheap little plant survives and blooms alongside the hothouse beauty.
Not all the plants are of my own choosing. There are quite a few growing here and there that were given to me by friends, family and loved ones, and even a few from acquaintances I may never see again. (Gardeners are notorious for sharing seeds and plantlings with complete strangers if they show any interest whatsoever in their gardens. That is what being a gardener truly means, I think.) So on any given day I can look out and see the flowers and plants I've inherited from generous people: a stripling from a tree my father gave to my mother nearly 40 years ago, the hydrangea from my mother's garden and the one my daughter gave to me on Mother's day, some hollyhocks a friend brought to me several years ago, some ground cover from another friend who was thinning out her own garden, hostas and asters from an old family acquaintance. I watch all of these as carefully as I watch the plants I put there myself, perhaps moreso because they are gifts that were entrusted to me, to cherish, nourish and enjoy, a reminder of my relationship with these people, however deep or transient.
But regardless of where the plants came from, whether they were gifts, purchases, or accidental sprouts that mother nature decided to magically deposit in the soil, I continuously benefit from all the beauty they provide and all the lessons I learn as I try to keep everything happy and alive. (Mainly the lessons of patience, how to overcome disappointment, and remaining hopeful!) I look out at the garden each spring, wondering if everything will come back, surprised when some flowers seem stronger than others and push their way into corners and crevices I didn't expect. I try to give some direction to the garden, have some amorphous master plan, but really it's a testament to "managed neglect", letting things happen and being surprised and delighted at the results. Although this isn't to say that I don't spend hours puttering, fussing, weeding, and making sure it's watered and fed. There's a difference I think between apathy and knowing when to sit back and let nature take its course.
If there's a plan to my life it's an equally reckless and haphazard one, with really only one chief goal: to be happy, to enjoy my life, and to allow myself to be touched and transformed by beauty and love. Like my garden, my life is the result of all the experiences and joys I've brought to it myself, enriched deeply by the blessings that those I love have showered over me, and altered now and then by the unexpected lessons I've been taught by strangers, even if they didn't realize it.
My garden, and my life, aren't finished yet. They'll never be finished. There will always be things I want to change, or add, or take away, or experiment with. But I really wouldn't have it any other way. I hope my life, like my garden, will always make room for the unexpected bounty of new flowers and new experiences, and will never stop being transformed by the intrusion of generosity.