Life is Like That

by Alice Woodrome

Image by Alice Woodrome

When I took my bucket and shears to the garden this morning at sunup I knew what awaited me: the same chore I've performed since our hot dry August began taking its toll on my flowers. I spend my time trimming away the plants that can't take the heat.

I often begin by wondering what the garden has to teach me today. I find many lessons demonstrated eloquently there and have come to appreciate the metaphors.

My garden has shown me repeatedly that life is very temporary. It does not despair of this reality, however. It blooms when it can and glories in the beauty of each day. It doesn't spoil the present with worry about what the future holds, but faces the inevitable droughts, disease and pests when they come.

I've learned to hold back sometimes and watch. There was a time when I tried to micro-manage the garden, pulling every weed, spraying every bug, and training every vine that seemed to go awry. I sometimes did more harm than good. I've learned that the garden does not find its own grace if I hover -- and the natural grace of a garden (or any life) is better than anything I might plan.

The garden has taught me that sometimes its best to give up certain cherished ideas. Some things don't grow well here. When I let the garden lead, I'm a better gardener. It doesn't do any good to try to make my garden something it is not. It is not a Michigan garden or a Portland garden. It is an Oklahoma garden and it knows it and will not yield to my demands.

Which brings me to the lesson of today: control. I don't have it – never did even when I thought this was "my" garden. Yes, I can introduce new plants and shape the garden in some ways, but it has a will of its own, as does my child. Both are subject to forces that I have no control over. I'm not even a "steward," because that implies more power than I have. I'm a caregiver. I tend to the garden's needs and enjoy its gifts when they come. And when my garden is in sad shape, I keep tending it. I water it, I keep the weeds from strangling it, and I keep a compost pile going to improve the soil because I know that this is just one season. The dry brown leaves of August do not tell the whole story. Life awaits in the roots and in the seeds that are ripening on the withered vines. My garden will bloom again. Life is like that.