My garden taught me some important lessons today.
People communing with their flowers, herbs and vegetables must have known of this magical mentoring between plants and humans.
Honestly, intimidation kept me from tackling the soil for years. My Italian immigrant grandparents immediately transformed their Michigan homestead side yard in the early 1900s into a 14 x 18 foot garden and grew lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, potatoes, raspberries, onions, scallions, peppers, and much more. All harvested yearly.
The eldest son acquired the homestead upon his marriage, and my Nona lived with him and his family. The planting, tending and harvesting continued and, as Italians do best, food was shared. Canning happened in the late fall and the delectable eatables were exchanged in Mason jars throughout the year.
Recalling the lush rows of vegetables and fruit when considering an urban garden as an adult on my own was both inspiring and daunting.
“Downsizing should be easier,” I muttered to myself. Shovel and seeds in hand, I mustered my ancestors’ adventurous spirits and dove into the dirt, launching my gardening career with a dozen pots scattered in my front yard and two herb boxes for the back.
Dirt has found a permanent home under my fingernails for two years now. Flowers and plants have their own season, just like the chapters and seasons in our lives. As a novice botanist, however, I employed magical thinking. Once you pick your greenery and flowers and plant them, well, you’re done. At least for the next year or two. Fini, terminato, done.
I learned quickly that ongoing care accompanies growth and beauty in any garden and in any life.
Here is what I learned from caring for my plants about how to care consistently for my own well-being:
1. Start with healthful plants. Pay attention from the beginning.
Pema Chodron says, “Just where you are. That’s the place to start.”
This wisdom reminds me to breathe, open my eyes and see where I am physically, emotionally and spiritually. Starting with a clear intention for what I want to manifest helps me to germinate the seeds I desire and prepare consciously for the next phases of growth in my life.
2. Nourish with good food and compost. This feeds our plants and activates their growth.
Asking myself, “What am I really hungry for in my life? What can feed my cravings for love, connection, intimacy and honest relationships?” These are the questions that feed my vitality and nourish me with what I need for my own spiritual and emotional intelligence.
3. Damage by insects and viruses happens, so ongoing care is necessary.
I remind my spirit, “Life is a journey, not a destination.” Continual observation of my own heart’s aching, my body’s nudging, my soul’s longing is vital. It’s daily tending. Pay attention to when I am feeling pain or needing to rest. Tend to self-care first.
4. Pull out weeds, discard dead leaves and be willing to let go of dis-eased plants.
”When people show you who they are believe them.” ~ Maya Angelou
Throwing out old thoughts that no longer serve, clothes and books that no longer spark joy and letting go of relationships when they have fulfilled their growing season in my life makes space for new life, new joys and new connections.
5. Plants require space to deepen their roots and spread their leaves.
Me too. To honor my roots, I choose to name them and honor their uniqueness. To spread my wings and evolve into a full expression of myself, I take time alone. Quiet self-reflection, making space for a connection to a spiritual source and loving non-attachment from others may be called for.
We can co-exist with our differences and give space to each other. Integrating what I like from my roots and leaving what no longer serves enables me to grow and evolve in my full life expression.
Experienced botanists, I salute you.
When I see a garden filled with colorful flowers, I am no longer pulled into the swirling of a shame spiral—into a dark drain of “I can’t do this.”
Today, I am roused to action. What my ancestors produced so organically in our family lineage I now bring forth in my own life. The window herb boxes planted in the temperate weather of Texas add flavor to my recipes and the annual flowers in my pots in the entrance to our home remind me that there is a season for all of life and all seasons have beauty.
My garden and plants evoke the memory to remember:
Be fully present and enjoy just where I am at. That’s the place to start.
Author: Sally Bartolameolli
Image: Courtesy of Author
Editor: Travis May