When I wrote my “About Me” page, I mentioned that I am a gardener. I mentioned it again when I wrote about the lessons I learned from a small yellow crocus. (http://transitioningmom.com/2011/03/21/the-patience-of-a-crocus/) I must now admit that’s only a partial truth. The whole truth is: I am an weed-obsessed, bunny-battling, squirrel-shooing, bug-cursing, neurotic gardener. Just ask my neighbors. I’m sure they’ve heard my rants.
My summer garden actually begins in winter. Around February, I feel a familiar itching in my fingers. I long to get my hands in the dirt and see life burst forth from the ground. March comes along and I am teased by the intermittent days of warmth. Knowing it’s far too soon, I pacify my longings with paper, pencil, and gardening books. I lay out bed designs and inventory seed packets. During the crisp days of April, I begin to clear away the discards of winter and search for blooming bulbs. By May, I can wait no more; soil is turned, amendments are added, and cool weather crops are planted. In June, I nurture tender sprouts and open war on my adversaries. And by July, I am fully consumed by my neuroses.
Until this year…
As I talked with my sister on the phone during early June, I walked the paths of my vegetable garden. Step by step, I assessed the progress. Daily, she listened to me lament about the bugs that ate this young plant, or the bunnies that munched that sprout. I took my frustrations to my husband. He graciously encircled the vegetable garden with
chicken bunny-wire fencing as I fumigated the bugs with organic sprays and screamed at the squirrels that decapitated my sunflowers.
I thought we had this all figured out. With the monsoon rains came the promise of an abundant garden. I had planned well. I had sprayed and screamed, added fencing and my beautiful garden grew. There would be lettuce, and spinach, and kale, and cabbage, and peas, and beans, and corn, and cucumbers, and tomatoes, and peppers, and beets, and carrots, and onions, and garlic, and eggplant, and berries, and grapes, and 3 different types of squash and basil, lots and lots of basil.
And, by mid-July, there would be insanity. An entire 8 inch tall eggplant gone–virtually overnight. The bugs had won. I had lost. My sister laughed–out loud–at my gardening drama. My blood pressure sky-rocketed. Lucky for her, she clarified.
As spring turned to summer, my world felt as though it was spinning out of control. With my older daughter leaving for Mongolia and my husband’s job loss, my hands closed tighter and tighter around what I thought I could control–my garden. I fought against the wildlife I usually enjoyed watching. I pushed for growth with added nutrients and protected with higher fencing. For months, my sister listened as I neurotically obsessed over every bunny break-in and bug-consumed leaf. She laughed at my misdirected energy as I ranted over the death of an eggplant. She suggested I “lighten up”, that I let go of the things I couldn’t or didn’t need to control. Either that, or she would turn me in for “evaluation.” I had it coming, and don’t tell her, but she was right.
Here’s what happened when I released my death-grip and “neglected” my garden this year…
The lettuce grew taller than the cosmos, but the cabbage didn’t mind.
Nor did the any of the squash…
The corn grew taller, while the tomatoes grew larger and the peppers grew hotter…
I let go, and the elderberry merged with the Russian sage and cosmos sprouted wildly…
The water-lily bloomed,
sunflowers reached for the sky,
and roses filled the air with fragrance.
This summer, I released my grip, relaxed more, and I was blessed with an abundance. Plants grew outside the designated beds. I left them. One eggplant died, but two are producing. Flowers bloomed late, bloomed early, and some didn’t bloom at all. So what? I have enjoyed the tastes, the fragrance, the sites, and the sounds of my wild garden–perhaps even more than I would have if everything had been “under control.” This summer, as my garden grew outside, I grew inside. And, as we prepare for another school year and the cool nights extend into cool days, I will carry the lessons of my neglected garden with me; sometimes the best growth comes when I let go of control.