dahlia in my garden: Rio Fuego in Coleus leaves

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Living Picture

This week I took a class on vertical gardening. For the project we used tiny succulent cuttings which we arranged in unique plant boxes (cement board bottom, redwood framing, and wire mesh). Once the plants have rooted, hopefully in a few weeks, I will be able to hang the box on a wall in my garden to display.  

And once again, I found myself contemplating a gardening metaphor for our lives! Seems like they blossom up at me nearly every time I’m working with plants. Here’s what I noticed this time:

As I sat and looked at the empty plant box, filled with soil and waiting, I looked at the cuttings and tried to decide where to start. In my head, I wanted to get really creative and lay out the plants in an obvious pattern like a diamond shape or a heart. I decided to go with a diamond, so I selected a bunch of tiny, gray, perfectly round succulents and laid them out as that shape on the wire grid. With the basic outline in place, it looked great! I started adding in more cuttings, trying to keep to the design and match up everything perfectly. But I didn’t have enough of the same plants to continue the pattern and they weren’t different enough from the rest to make my design obviously stand out. As I filled in the blank areas, my pattern began to gradually disappear. 

I was so disappointed... at first. However, when I was about half-finished I began to notice how amazing it looked. The succulents were blending from one to the next with their subtle differences a wonderful patchwork of texture and color; and it was created simply by mixing up the cuttings and placing them tip to tip.

This is my succulent 'Living Picture'. I sure hope all those cuttings will take root!


Most of us try to keep our lives in constant pattern, setting things up so they’ll always be the same way, the same time, the same everything! As a species, we dislike change and tend toward a comfortable sameness of order. As I worked on my project, each single succulent cutting began to represent a part of my life that I’m always trying to force into place. When we are looking up close at the individual puzzle pieces of our life's schedule: health care, relationships, pain needs, employment, etc... it’s hard to see how we might be pushing too hard to make them fit in a perceived to be perfect way. Stepping back and taking a moment to examine the overall ‘picture’ might reveal how we are fighting against the grain, and possibly to our detriment. 

When I relaxed and just let the succulent cuttings slide in where there was an open spot relative to their size, my feelings of tension and stress began to ease. I realized my over-focused effort to keep to a pattern was never going to be exactly what I planned, but that the result would still be enjoyable. In fact, in surrendering my control, it turned out for the better!

If you are feeling stressed, stop and take a serious look at how you have the patterns set up in your life. Are you forcing yourself to maintain a level of activity beyond your endurance? Are you trying to put certain life ‘puzzle pieces’ which should have less priority closer to the center than they should be? Are you respecting your pain needs and allowing time to care for your body and emotions?

Step back and evaluate your own ‘living picture’. Maybe the tension and worry you’re feeling is telling you something. It might be time to rearrange those puzzle pieces of your life. Let go of your tight control and allow them to fall into place - it may be that a better and healthier pattern will evolve on its own.

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