dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Life Lessons from the Garden

Back in March when I was preparing to plant my spring seeds, I wrote a post about how those little seeds teach us life lessons. (You can read that post here: Seeds have needs... just like we do). Those seeds are plants now, and they are still dishing out advice.

Unlike most of the country, we’ve had an unseasonably cool summer. Although it’s more comfortable for me living in an apartment with no air conditioning, it certainly hasn’t been helpful for my garden! I have tall, bushy tomato plants all loaded up with green fruit... which just sits and refuses to ripen. We dug up my dahlias last fall so they were planted as tubers in late spring. I knew they’d be late but they shouldn’t be this late! We are nearly at mid-August and with thirty dahlia plants I should be drowning in blooms. They are coming in sooooo slowly. Just yesterday I got my first four dinner plate dahlia blooms, but I’m impatient for more. I’ve been cursing the weather and praying for the nights to warm up enough to encourage my garden to really hit its stride.

So, what lessons are my plants teaching me?

This is my first real arrangement of dahlias this season - at last! 

I can complain about the weather all I like and wish for a greenhouse (ah, that would be so awesome!) but I cannot make Mother Nature change her mind about the temperature. Worrying about it and being discouraged by the wait brings me nothing but stress, which isn’t good for my health particularly with my current flare-up. I must learn patience. I know that I will get blooms from most of my dahlia plants this season, but even if I don’t, they will come back next year. The tomatoes... well, this could the second year in a row which will leave me without any crop. But fretting and swearing about it is not useful. At least we have a good farmer’s market nearby! I’ve got to learn to let it go and be patient.

Those plants sure are showing me determination! Despite the brisk nights with heavy fog which settle over the area until late morning every day, the plants have continued to push themselves toward their goal of fruition. How many times have we grappled with our chronic pain in a situation with imperfect conditions? It can be hard to drive ourselves forward when we are physically hurting and things just don’t seem to be going our way. We need some of that determination, an unwillingness to swerve from our purpose. A plant’s life can be very fragile, so dependent on having its needs met in ways it can’t affect on its own. We have far more choice and ability to meet our own needs; if something so delicate can face down and survive rough conditions, so can we with determination and a little help.
In years past, I get overloaded with dahlias by the end of the season. I start giving them away to friends, making arrangements for church and my YMCA, and even dump them on my manicurist. This year with the low number of dahlias, I have given away very few. They are far more precious to me. Waiting with great anticipation for each flower to fully open, I find myself paying more attention to the process. I try to guess how long it will take each popped bud to make it to full bloom, and I check each day to see how they are progressing. 

Sunlight shining through "Junkyard Dog" - truly a sight to stop & enjoy

What’s the lesson here?: Appreciate the things we take for granted. We race through life and barely notice the little things. Think of the adage, “Take time to stop and smell the roses.” Well, in this case it’s dahlias but I know you get what I’m saying. Appreciate the loved ones in your life, make sure you let them know how you feel. No matter what your illness or chronic pain level, remind yourself to be grateful for what you are able to do. Honor your body for being the vessel which takes you on your life’s journey toward your own 'soul blossoming'. It may not be perfect but it’s the body you have and it does work hard. Give it a little extra love and care. 

Be mindful of the moment you are in; just like a dahlia flower is beautiful and unique, it does not last forever. It will wilt and be gone before long. Embrace the love around you and take the time to really ‘see’ and experience all the things that make life special. 

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