By Carol Traulsen
I’m not the first writer to use a garden as a metaphor for life and there’s a reason: it works. But I have to say I think the first stage is often ignored. The first stage of course is preparation. After a long wet or cold winter I look forward to Mother’s Day. Like so many other moms, I prefer the kind of flowers that keep growing. Each Mother’s Day we make a trip to the local hardware/nursery for seeds, vegetable starts and flowering plants. Flowers are nice but if we purchase plants we have the joy of watching them bloom all summer.
We bring home our little treasures and we have to prepare the soil before we plant the seeds or the starts. Any kind of growth in life requires the same sort of preparation. First we must till the soil (the soul?) it can’t be hard or the plant’s roots won’t spread and take hold. Our heart and our souls must be open and softened to the idea of growth or it won’t take hold. We pull up the weeds and moss that suck the nutrients from soil so the plant can have its share. So too in our lives we must sweep away those experiences or people that suck us dry or become toxic and take over.
There is a right time for each kind of seed and plant to be placed in the garden. Too early and the seed will mildew from rain, too late and its growth will be stunted and it doesn’t bear fruit before the season ends. There is also a right time for certain kinds of growth in our lives. Often the time is not of our choosing, but we don’t have control over when to plant a garden either. You can’t for instance, expect to plant strawberries in November in Alaska and have any berries sixty days later. It’s still the middle of winter after all.
It takes effort to till the soil, to pull the weeds and moss and prepare the correct place in the garden for the seeds or the plants. The taller plants need to go toward the back of the garden so they don’t block the sun from the other plants. People often make a plan on a piece of paper to lay our where each crop should go according to when it needs to be planted, how much room it takes up, and the size of the plant as it matures.
Growth in our lives requires effort, preparedness and a plan as well. We can decide what kind of growth experience we want in our lives. We can lean toward, spiritual, intellectual or emotional growth and pursue a path in that direction. Whether it’s through online study, classroom study, we can guide a certain portion of our growth, but much of it is learned through personal experience and the people that come into our lives to teach us. If we have not prepared the soil (or the soul) there will not be a very good crop. The roots will be cramped and reaching for nourishment. We too will find ourselves thirsty for knowledge and withering for nutrients in the form of human contact, intellectual and emotional growth if we aren’t ready to receive and do the work real growth requires.
We have to weed out the dead, uninspired things in our lives. Get rid of habits that waste time or are ineffective. We must ask ourselves what kind of growth we yearn for and lay the groundwork for a healthy crop. Then, once we have prepared the soil, we tuck the plant or seed in and gather those nutrients around it. Next we add water and light. All things need water and light, people don’t get enough of either. Rest, water, light and food are an important part of the process. Once we have prepared, made a plan, and we are open and focused. We are ready for the next stage: germination.