Life Lessons I Learned From My Garden

At the back of my garage, there’s a path I made out of flagstones I’d found around the property. It’s lovely; bordered by daisies, lupines, tiger lilies and echinacea, it leads to an old wooden door. For a year or two, I lovingly trimmed the grass between the stones by hand, and kept it swept of dirt. But in time, the kids took over some of the yard work, and my time for puttering was limited. Life happened.

Maybe I was no longer caring for the path as meticulously as at first, but I still loved it.

Fast forward five years. On a Sunday morning in July, I went out to pay my garden some attention for the first time all year. I weeded my way along the rather wild flower bed, pulling clover and taming creepers that were threatening to take over.

As I followed a strand of Creeping Charlie near the garage, I pulled up some dirt along the edge of one of the stepping stones, only to expose part of the stone. Hmm. I got a small spade and scraped away more and more dirt and grass – half the stone had been covered.

I stood up and took a good look at my beloved path: Nature had clearly overtaken many of the stones. My puttering took on a whole new direction.

About three hours later, I stood back once again to admire my work. I now had a clear stone path that was nearly twice as wide as I’d remembered. I even found a dozen stones that had been completely engulfed by dirt, grass and weeds. More than a tidy path, this morning’s work had left me with some food for thought.

Over time, I hadn’t noticed that the expanse of path had become shrunken and crowded. Hmm, maybe the same thing happens in my body, in my life.

No matter the type of improvement I make – exercise or meditation routine, eating habits, work habits – eventually, I forget where my edges are, and let them get lost in the stuff of life. The creativity and clarity inspired by a conference can lose its sheen. My deepest intentions can get crowded out or even completely obscured by the wants/needs/growth of others.

Every once in a while, I need to brush away the dirt and rediscover the clarity of who I am and what I need. Even when we live a healthy, natural lifestyle, our bodies get clogged with debris.

Metabolic waste is as much a byproduct of life processes as is dirt. And just because I improved my diet six years ago, or went through a cleanse six months ago, doesn’t mean that I won’t have to do it again.

Over time, the energy and improved health gained from a cleanse gets clouded by other aspects of life. In my case, the exceptions sneak back in, and I find myself eating gluten and dairy more often than is good for me.

And then, there are the flowers. As I deadheaded the daisies, which make me smile, I realize that people and situations happen in our lives which make us happy, and we’re reluctant to see them go. I’ve gardened enough to know that for more beauty to arise, it’s necessary to trim the withered blooms. Sometimes they come back for another round, and sometimes that was it for the season, or for good – time to say goodbye and plant something new.

This summer, it hit me that I’d still been living parts of my life as a 25-year-old. I'd become stuck in some of the attitudes and beliefs of my much younger self. No wonder I'm having a hard time making progress in my work, in my finances, as a mother.

As much as I’d love to think that I'm still the fresh young bud I was in the 90s, as much as I'd love to recapture some snapshots from those days, that truth is long faded. By cutting out the wilted bits from my heart and mind, I've been able to recuperate the energy that had been choked by the weeds of lost causes. I’ve been able recharge my life and take steps to move forward as a full-grown woman.

As I stood back to admire what I’d accomplished, the whole thing looked kind of bare. Yet I knew the dirt I’d exposed would fill in with greenery before long. What I had was a clean slate and a good reminder that seasonally or annually, it’s a good idea to weed the overgrowth, rediscover my edges, and get a clear view of the path I’m walking.

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