Resilience

P1040301When we first bought our house almost nine years ago, there were eight different flowerbeds scattered all around our yard. Some were round. Some were shaped like crescent moons. All had been neglected for many years. A small tree sprouted in the middle of the biggest bed, surrounded by waist-high grass and dandelions with stalks as thick as my thumb. During our first summer, I looked despairingly at these beds of choked, bulky weeds, and then I ignored them. I had a newborn baby and a lot of hiking to do with him. Gardening had never interested me. It meant that you were rooted. You had to weed, plant, water, and maintain, and I just wanted to be free. A garden was way too big of a commitment for me.

But, during the next spring, I watched, amazed, as orange oriental poppies, yellow and deep purple irises, and bright pink peonies shot up and bloomed. I couldn’t believe that they could still sprout and even prosper amidst all of those weeds that seemed so deadly.

According to local knowledge, the original owners of our home, the family who built it in 1933, were avid gardeners. Songbirds frequented the yard. Flowers bloomed happily everywhere. I kept thinking that I wanted those gardens to be beautiful again; I did not want to tear them up or let them become even more chaotic. Taking care of our flowerbeds seemed like the right thing to do.

I also saw how rooted I had become with a baby, and I was newly pregnant with my daughter. So, that spring, I dug and untangled. I didn’t know what half of the plants were; I salvaged what I could amidst the carnage. I spent hours and hours weeding and digging, trying to set those flowers free. In desperation one day, I drove to the local garden store with my year old toddler and asked for advice. “What can I do about all that grass?” I was weepy, my knees covered in dirt, my pregnant belly protruding.
“Dig it all up.  Replace the dirt. Throw down a lot of chemicals and start over.” This was not what I wanted to hear. It sounded way too complicated for a novice gardener, and I didn’t want any chemicals. So, I kept on digging, untangling, weeding.

Today as I dug around the edges of my beautiful garden in full May sunshine, wrenching grass out of my lilies and lupine, I thought, “I should have dug it all up like they told me years ago.” Every year, I battle that grass. Every year, I curse it. Some years I attack it, and other years, I sigh and let it grow. I wonder how many things in life are like that. You know that the best course of action is to gut it all and start again anew. Instead, year after year, you take on little chunks and never feel that the task is truly done.

There must be a part of me who loves to restore order, to straighten, to create space so that growth happens freely, so that my flowers can breathe again. There must be a part of me that sees that my garden reminds me to hope, that seeds and bulbs and buds are resilient, that they cannot just survive but thrive. They need just a little help.