Some people are fair-weathered gardeners. They plant in spring and enjoy the view in the summer, only to ignore the garden the rest of the year. For them, gardening amounts to a weekend trip to the local garden center, five flats of flowers, and a bag of mulch. One afternoon’s worth of planting and voila! An instant garden and the immediate gratification of flowers already in bloom.
I used to be that kind of gardener. Oh sure – I descend from a long lineage of good gardening stock and often thought of myself as having proudly inherited a green thumb. How wrong was I! What I acquired was an appreciation of others’ efforts…of the end result…of the idea of gardening. I could weed and till and plant with the best of them – for one day, for one month, for one season. Just don’t ask me to maintain. But good gardening, like a good life, requires on-going attention and maintenance, like it or not.
Today, a cool 55 degrees and drizzling, I took one look at the first signs of spring in my new garden, and could plainly see what had been hidden in the full bloom of summer when I first stumbled upon my cottage. Weeds. Lots of them. Some of them small, resting shallowly upon the surface; others of them big and deeply rooted. Some even have flowers of their own, often confusing to the inexperienced gardener, but weeds none the less, threatening to crowd out and suffocate the new life emerging from the good stock of the garden. More than I could tackle in a day, more than I could pull out in a week. Signs of spring still beginning to emerge amidst the weeds, I thought to myself, “this is going to take a while.”
Isn’t that how it is with our own baggage sometimes?
We try and plant new seeds and establish new gardens, without first clearing out the weeds and preparing the soil. Sometimes we’re successful, but only for a season or two. When we fail to cut back, clear out, and prepare for the new, the baggage of our hearts often crowd out new blooms, overshadowing or diluting the long term health and vitality of our lives. Eventually, if left untended, the weeds will overtake the beauty of the present, the untilled soil too hard to accommodate new life.
So today I started a new project. Weeding. Deliberate, sometimes difficult, always time-consuming. Digging and pulling, pulling and tilling. The thing is – not only is the act of weeding often cathartic in and of itself, but the time, effort, and pain involved always paves the way to new, healthier growth…to a bountiful and beautiful garden…to a stronger and wiser gardener.
Yes, it is a season of the hard work of gardening. Of excavating the old and preparing for the new. And in this season, I will learn to find joy in the hard work itself. I will resist the temptation to cut corners and create an ‘instant’ garden. I will work joyfully in remembrance that life’s seasons are always changing and we must change and grow with them; in the certain knowledge that an untended garden will first grow unruly and then wither and die from neglect; and with the wisdom that if we live only for the beauty of spring and summer, we miss the important lessons of the fall and winter of our lives.
Just as the mountain calls us to stretch our reach and to persevere through the struggle, so, too, does the garden teach us the value and importance of routine maintenance and the secrets of the seasons. Don’t you just love how Mother Nature provides us with all of the lessons we will ever need, right here in our own back yard?