Posts Tagged ‘Patience’

What Seeds Are You Planting?

Every year I coax myself through winter by devouring the garden catalog from Silver Heights Farm in Cochecton Center, New York. Trina nurtures an amazing variety of things that I can transplant as seedlings every spring to get a jumpstart on my vegetable garden. While there are some things that come up best from seeds like beans and carrots, my wooded lot (and my personal dearth of patience) just doesn’t offer me enough sunshine to grow tomatoes and peppers from seed before fall comes. In my many years of backyard gardening, I have learned some lessons, such as if I plant carrots, I can’t expect to harvest oranges, so I think carefully about what I want to harvest when I decide what to plant. With the vagaries of climate in our area, it also means I am quick to decide what’s a weed and to firmly yank it out by the roots.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed the spread of a really invasive weed throughout the county I live in. I had only read about it taking root in other parts of the country, but I’ve started to see signs of it here. It seems to be spreading and showing up in places I hadn’t seen it before. I recognized it as the genus “Blame” and I realized that it wasn’t staying confined to its own family like most plants do. Nope, this one was definitely a weed and it was move stealthily from one yard to another and its roots were crowding out healthier growth throughout the county.

A neighbor mentioned it at a coffee shop. She said to the man she was sitting with in the booth behind mine, “Why didn’t Somebody do something?” I knew I shouldn’t eavesdrop, but I realized she was the third person that day who had made reference to this insidious rot of blame. I knew that blame grows wildly in the shade of denial and that it was spreading across the country and was now threatening the gardens and forests of my community.

I had been reading about this invader in the paper for many months. “Why didn’t Somebody do something to stop the banks from making all those mortgages?” For heaven’s sake, why didn’t Somebody do something to stop the nuclear meltdown in Japan! Somebody ought to figure out how we can avoid cutting back on services without raising taxes. It seemed like everywhere I went, people were looking for a mysterious weed-killer to deploy against this kudzu-like duo of denial and blame that had crept into our conversations, robbing us of the fruits of our labors.

Everyone seemed to wonder why the manufacturers weren’t issuing more of this Somebody that they could sprinkle on the problems they faced like some kind of magic cure to bring this black rot of irresponsibility under control. I started to wonder if individually we aren’t each the “Somebody” we’re searching for.

I supposed the blame and denial had taken root because maintaining the gardens of our lives is hard work, especially when we’re maintaining the common ground of a community. In many ways, it’s just easier to hope that spraying on some nebulous “Somebody” will make everything fine when we’re ready to harvest our share. But that head-in-the-sand approach allows the weeds to take over and pretty soon it’s hard to find the dreams we thought we had planted. I want to harvest friendship and prosperity from the safety of this common ground and I want to take pleasure in sharing that labor and that bounty with my neighbors.

In tending this plot of land we share, I am diligent to make sure that no one is spraying RoundUp on it as a way to keep the weeds of blame under control. Pesticides like anger kill everything it is sprayed on – weed and vegetable alike. Blame needs to be pulled up by the roots and we all need to be careful not to accidentally tote the seeds of blame to someone else’s home. That means mindfully disposing of rumor and using the bright light of personal accountability to clean our tools before digging in anyone else’s dirt.

Fruitful gardens benefit from composting – it can turn leftovers and yard waste into rich organic matter. Unlike MiracleGro, which gives a quick, but short lived burst of blooms, doing the work to enrich the soil makes for long-lasting, healthy growth and delicious, satisfying results. I personally suggest using your hands to turn together in your own yard equal parts of responsibility, selfless effort and humility. When we each bring together the products of that effort and moisten it with a shower of kindness, we will be amazed by how fertile our common ground is.

No one can do everything, but everyone can do something. What we plant in the months ahead will ensure a bountiful harvest for our community. It’s amazing what one seed can grow.

What Direction Are You Headed?

“YOU CAN’T GET THERE FROM HERE.” My Maine friends tell me that’s a common response to give tourists who don’t appreciate the mountainous or cove-studded terrain of that state. The first time I heard it, I thought “That’s nonsense – of course you can get anywhere from where you are.” What I realized they meant is that you can’t get there if you keep going in the direction you’re pointed.

When I travel, I often rely upon my portable GPS device or Mapquest directions. Mapquest asks me such helpful questions as:

• Shortest time? Or shortest distance?

What it never asks me is if I want to avoid the mess of The Big Dig in Boston or the DC Beltway at rush hour. Nope, it’s up to me to make alternate decisions when I’m faced with those unexpected surprises. The map and step-by-step directions make it look simple and straightforward to get from where I am to where I want to be.

Our lives are much like a Mapquest direction sheet. You start out with a printed map and what seem to be turn-by-turn directions but then you come upon 17 miles of taillights because an oil tanker has overturned on the road ahead. Who knows when the traffic will clear! You can stay in the traffic and fume about how unfair it is, how it’s delaying your arrival and costing you money. You can be a lunatic blowing your horn or pacing the shoulder of the road shouting into your cell phone, or you can take a breath, be grateful you weren’t the guy just helicoptered from the scene or his family. Then you can start thinking about finding an alternate route. You might get off the highway, have dinner and wait for the traffic to clear. You might call someone on your cell phone and ask them to give you directions on side streets. Maybe, just maybe, you might decide to cut your own suffering and try to enjoy this alternate route you’re forced to take. After all, life’s about the journey, not just the destination.

The difference is, if it’s only an overturned oil tanker on the road, you know that at some point they’ll get it cleared and traffic will begin to move. In this market, it’s more like a giant sinkhole just occurred and swallowed up several lanes of the highway. There’s no telling if it will be weeks or years before crews will be able to repair the damage. It might never return to its former wide path of lifestyle mobility. Waiting it out probably isn’t realistic for most of us.

When I make a turn from the pre-programmed instructions, my GPS device urges me to “Return to the highlighted route.” But sometimes, I just listen patiently while it tells me “Recalculating Route”.

Each of us has an internal GPS device to help us recalculate our route. Sometimes our detour sped us along the career highway and this is an opportunity to return to the highlighted route toward our family. Other times, this detour returns us to simpler times of hosting friends for a potluck dinner and playing a card game together. For some of us, seemingly without a map, following the stars by moving into a new but lesser paying position in a completely different field that holds a passion for you (an arts and crafts gallery, a teaching position, being a scuba instructor). Others will pull off the road, sit in a diner and enjoy a book like The Number by Lee Eisenberg which talks about how much is really enough, or How to Find Your Mission in Life by Richard Bolles, and then revise their map given these changing conditions.

What doesn’t work is staying stuck in the traffic fuming and hoping. By all signs, the road isn’t going to return anytime soon to its formerly high speed six-lane condition we became accustomed to. You’re going to be “late” arriving “there.” Recalculate your route, align your economic goals, expenses and lifestyle, and do it soon. It might, in fact, take us each a while to get back on the road we had planned. Ultimately, if you really want to reach your destination, you’ll get there. The real surprise will be how many interesting experiences you’ll be able to relate to the others when you arrive.