Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Getting Your Garden Ready

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What I don’t know about gardening would just barely cover the Pacific Ocean. I wasn’t born with a green thumb, and my severe allergies to pollen and bees pretty much ensured I’d never develop one.

Anything I’ve tried to cultivate has spitefully funneled its energy into dying—quickly, and with abandon. So, I mostly adopt a hands-off approach when it comes to things growing in my yard or garden. Sure, I have the kids or Mr. Wright mow the lawn, but I try not to mess with the flowers too much.

I may not know a weed from wisteria, but one thing I do know when I see it is “ugly.” Brown, dead foliage is ugly, and I always assume, since it’s already dead, I can’t do much more damage. I took an antihistamine and ventured into the out-of-doors a couple days ago. Brave, I know. The flowers in the back yard had updated their spring palettes and opted for ostentatious displays of lemon-yellow, bright fuchsia and violet.

There was also a lot of dead stuff. Broken, crisp leaves and decaying flowers crowded around the bottoms of the plants, and I started plucking them by the handful. I got jabbed and sliced by a few thorns, but the ease with which the lifeless branches and shoots pulled away from the living stems entranced me, and I kept going, throwing the expired material into a pile.

It took a few hours, and when I was done, all that was left was color. Beautiful, glorious flowers topped vivid green stems and nestled among the bright leaves.

Did I mention it took hours? I had a lot of time to think about things I don’t spend much time thinking about—like myself. I’ve been a busy, busy bee lately, and I’ve lost a bit of focus. I’ve taken on a lot of projects, people and plans; and something has to give.

As the flower beds became tidy and de-cluttered, it was clear to me that life is much the same way—dead things fall easily away from the living root, figuratively speaking. I don’t mean it’s going to be easy once your beloved dog is dead, or Grandma passes on. I’m just talking about the spiritually dead things we fill our lives with.

I struggle with giving up activities, projects and people I feel obligated to serve or have invested a great deal of time in. I agonize over letting go of things because I erroneously believe they define me. I’m a member of (fill in my favorite club/group/organization du jour), or I hold the title of (insert my current occupation), or I’m known for being really dedicated to (plug in my passion of the moment).

It’s time to clear away the dead stuff. You know, the standing monthly lunch date with the friend who criticizes; or the sport you keep playing, even though it’s beginning to feel like a burden; or the volunteer work you feel like you can’t refuse, even though it makes you resentful?

If we walked away for a month, would those things easily fall away, like dead leaves? Or would we miss them, aching for their return? Are we allowing dead things to define us? I’m speaking figuratively, of course. The happy Elvis impersonator is, by necessity, defined by a dead thing. I’m not talking about him.

Let’s talk about the birds and the bees. Don’t worry—I’m not going to launch into a human sexuality lesson. I mean the literal birds and bees. While out in the flower beds, the birds were singing and flitting about gaily, as if urging me along in my purging project, while the bees angrily buzzed around me, as if saying, “Get out of here. Leave well enough alone.”

I, for one, have too many bees in my life, and sometimes their buzz drowns out the song of the birds, encouraging and praising me. I do believe I’m in the market for a course on insect extermination. Figuratively speaking, of course.

How’s your garden shaping up?

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