I grew up in Greece, in a suburb about 30 minutes away from downtown Athens. As a child I was very close to my grandfather who, in my eyes, was a magician gardener. I used to follow him around, watching his every move as he tended his roses and fruit trees with great care.
In the summer, he used to wake me up early in the morning so we could go and pick up figs for breakfast. At noon, the children used to lie down in the shade of this huge fig tree that was in our backyard, in order to find respite from the heat and nap, while our mothers sat nearby.
Over time, following to my grandfather’s footsteps, gardening became one of the ways I express myself creatively. Of course, like any other creative endeavor, gardening is a learning process. Often, the lessons we learn when we give ourselves to a process radiate in all areas of our life.
Through trial and error and to this day, I am being taught patience, the value of timing, acceptance, forgiveness, letting go, inner flexibility, and the inevitability of renewal that follows a crisis.
There are deep elements of surprise and surrender that come with a garden. The weather can change at a moment’s notice and I never really know how it will all progress. No matter how well I prepare, it’s impossible to foresee everything that could go wrong.
I do the best I can and hope for a show of color and an abundant harvest. At times, what I get isn’t what I planned for, but if I keep an open mind and surrender to the garden’s temperament, I come to appreciate the outcome.
These are a few things I’ve learned along the way. For instance . . .
- For as much as it helps to have a vision for the garden, this vision needs to be flexible. I am not the only creative force in the life of my garden. The garden will show me what it needs - I need to stay flexible.
- Taking time to plan - before digging - saves a lot of time and energy.
- I can’t worry about getting my hands dirty.
- I need to keep up with the weeds or they'll take over my garden.
- If something refuses to thrive - I can let it go!
- Sometimes I have to start over and I can't be afraid to try something new.
- I can learn from my mistakes. That's why they happen.
- I don't control the weather but I can clean up and believe in the perseverance of the garden itself.
- Being attached to a perfect outcome - whatever that means - is setting myself up for disappointment.
- Perfection is in the eye of the beholder.
- A garden is meant to be shared and enjoyed.
- There is always time to stop and smell the roses.
It takes more time for some lessons to settle in than others and that’s the beauty of it. Nothing useful comes from rushing. We may live in the age of speed and skin deep but life will do what life always does.
Day will follow night and vice versa. Spring will follow winter and fall will follow summer. The garden will go dormant and eventually it will sprout back to life again; at its own time and pace.
I can’t rush a rose to bloom but I can nurture and protect the rose bush as best I can. When I catch myself rushing through and becoming impatient with the pace of a project, I take a stroll in my garden and get my head straight.
Then, I remember the most important lesson of all! It’s the journey that counts!