Gardening for me is the solution to most of my problems. If I have a headache, I go play in the dirt; if I need to relieve some stress/worry, I go repot a plant; if I need to feed my soul and relax, I walk barefoot on the wet grass and sometimes wet myself with the hose. But there's so much more to gardening than just that. Gardening is a great teacher if only we'd stop to learn.
Are you a gardener? Do you love gardening? Have you ever planted and nurtured a plant - fruits, vegetables, or flowers? Have you successfully killed a plant or multiple plants? Lastly, have you ever thought about the lessons a plant has taught you? Well, I have. But not until recently.
A few days ago, as I watered my orchids, I started talking to the "Headmaster of the School of Patience" - yes, we the flowers folks talk to our plants and often name them too. Something I once frowned upon and thought everyone who did it was mad. Alas, look at me now, mad with the rest. Anyway, as I watered, I said, "you know, you really are teaching me patience, cause I should have gotten rid of you a long time ago." As I said those words it dawned on me that plants are great teachers. And I for one have learnt a lot in the past few years.
The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul. ~ Alfred Austin
I've always said that the Lord has a funny sense of humour. When I started gardening, I figured He thought it would be hilarious for me to fall in love with the hobby because He knows very well that the first lesson, and probably the most important, would be for me to learn patience. And what better way to learn patience than with these plants or children. (Click here to watch: My Plants Teach Me Patience).
So what are some of the lessons I've learnt so far?
1. Patience. A plant is going to be a plant. It will blossom, bloom, bear fruit, or mature only when it chooses to do so. Therefore, I can choose to patiently wait or I can frustrate myself on a daily basis by being overly anxious and impatient. Believe me, I have frustrated myself repeatedly and cussed the poor plants for not doing what I wanted, when I wanted it. Now I just wait and then get super excited when something does happen. Have I learnt patience in other aspects of my life? Hmmm...not so much...work in progress.
2. Growth takes time, consistency and dedication. I get up almost every morning and water my plants. I spend extra time with them on the weekend - weeding, feeding, extra watering, pruning, etc. I check them for bugs and fungus. I make sure they are doing just fine. When I remain consistent and dedicated to this routine, which takes time, I am rewarded with growth - lush gardens, beautiful blooms, and food. However, when I am not so consistent and/or dedicated they look at me like the evil witch and they do not produce as they should. This is the same for our lives - personal or professional. It takes time, dedication, and consistency for us to grow and flourish.
3. Learn from your mistakes. So you've killed a few plants by overwatering or not watering enough, or by not having them in the right location, etc. No worries, that's fine. It took me many dead plants to realize that if I keep doing the same things repeatedly, without learning and adjusting, I'm gonna keep killing the plants. Same with life. We all make mistakes, whether we learn from them or not is what makes the difference.
There is no gardening without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder.~ Alfred Austin
4. Adaptability & Resilience. Plants have an amazing way of adapting to their environment and are super resilient in most situations. They are survivors. Some grow deeper and thicker rooting systems to withstand varying weather conditions, while others emit scents and saps that ward off predators (I wonder if I can do this...hmmm). You may even notice that your plant is growing in a certain direction - may be towards the sunlight or shade. They are not defined by who owns them and how they've been taken care of. They may droop and wrinkle when not watered enough. Or they may stop blooming if overwatered. Nevertheless, they adapt and are resilient. We are much like plants. When exposed to the elements we put up our shield, we fight back, we learn to survive, we adapt and we become resilient.
5. Plants thrive in the right environment. Put a plant in the right environment and it grows magnificiently. Put a human in the right environment and voila, they too grow magnificiently .
A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them. ~ Liberty Hyde Bailey
6. There's beauty in everything. "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it." ~ Confucius. As destructive as a caterpillar can be to your garden, their transition into a butterfly is so delightful to watch. In life, not all situations will be palatable, but if you look hard enough, you will find that little glimmer of beauty.
7. Diversity is key. Can you imagine if you planted the same of everything throughout your garden, wouldn't that be boring? Variety is the spice of life. In planting varied things throughout my garden I get to enjoy blooms and foods at different times of the year. I get to have new experiences with each plant - how they grow, what their needs are. I'm fascinated with the different sizes, shapes, colors, heights, and smells. The same holds true for our lives. If there isn't some form of diversity happening in your life, you may be living a boring one. Just saying.
8. Abundance & Sharing. Luke 6:38 says, "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” I've found that the more I pour into my plants and give of their produce, the more they give to me. There's something absolutely magical about sharing. In life you have to be willing to give of yourself - time, money, talents, resources and self. The more you give, the more you receive. This doesn't mean however that you should let yourself be used and/or give of yourself until you have nothing left for you.
9. Appreciate the small things. It may only give you one bloom or a single fruit today. Appreciate it. You never know what tomorrow may bring.
10. Perspective. We are not always right. Heck, we don't even know everything. Our opinion of how we think things ought to go are not always how it should, and trust me, a plant will let you know when your perspective isn't theirs. Your perspective might be that the plant will do well inside; the plant however knows that it will do better on the outside, basking in the sunlight. This a valuable life lesson that can be useful in other areas of our lives. As Dan Brown said, "sometimes a change of perspective is all it takes to see the light."
11. Letting go. Just like how we prune plants to get rid of dried leaves and stems so that they can grow and flourish, the same is true of us as well. We also need to prune ourselves - let go of the things that no longer serve us so that we may grow and flourish.
12. Solitude is bliss. "The state or situation of being alone." ~Oxford Dictionary. I savor my solitude, which is most blissful after a few hours spent in the garden. This quote sums it up best, "the glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul." ~ Alfred Austin
13. Expect the unexpected. Sometimes God has a whole different plan ahead. I remember setting papaya seeds once. The seeds caught and started to grow, but none of the plants survived. I was devastated. A few months later, while weeding out the garden bed, I saw a little tree in the corner growing. I wasn't sure what it was because I hadn't planted anything on that side. Fast forward to a few weeks later when I realized it was a papaya tree. I got super excited and started to water and nuture the plant. Suffice it to say I have eaten and shared with others, fruits from said tree, which to this day is still going strong (click here to check out the first fruit). Our lives, sometimes, can be a series of unexpected events that lead to great things. Be patient, accepting and nurturing and remember, if it's Gods plan, you have nothing to worry about.
14. Learning is continuous. Every single day I learn something new about my plants. Not to mention the many ah-ha moments! I'm even more curious when I get a new plant and Google once again is my best friend. We should always be learning, no matter how insignificant a lesson we think it is; it is still a lesson.
15. Nourish yourself. Have you ever noticed how a plant will grow towards the sun if you put it in a place that is too dark? It's seeking nourishment, aka sunlight. There are some plants that, after blooming continuously, go into remission and no matter what you do, they will not bloom until they are good and ready; they are replenishing their soul. Just like plants we too need to be nourished. We need to stop and feed our spirit and replenish our soul. We need to nourish ourselves in order to flourish.
If you've never planted anything before, try it today, trust me, even if you kill a few, the euphoric feeling when it does blossom, bloom or produce is so worth it in the end.
A garden delights in the senses and you should too. The smells, the beautiful sights, birds chirping, or if you're lucky enough to hear the humming of a butterfly; the feel of wet grass on your bare feet; the sense of relief felt after getting down and dirty with your hands in the soil; not to mention the pleasure of tasting the fruits of your labour. My senses come alive when I become one with my garden; it's a feeling that quiets the mind and feeds the soul.