Three years ago, my partner and I moved into an apartment in Brooklyn with (gasp!) outdoor space and it has quite literally changed my life. Not only do I have the joy of being able to spend a couple of extra hours of the day in sunlight on our tiny deck, but I’ve fallen in love with gardening.
It turns out that my garden is a perfect Buddha teacher. It reflects back to me all the lessons I need to learn in life.
LESSONS FROM MY GARDEN:
1) Nothing manifests without the right conditions. I can have the most luscious plant in the world, but if I don’t give it the right soil, sun, and water, it will not thrive and it might even die. But if I nurture it and give it what it specifically needs to flourish, it will explode with luminous color and life.
2) It is a contract. When I buy a seed, seedling or plant, I make an agreement with that plant’s spirit to try to give it everything it needs. That doesn’t end with planting. I have to quiet myself and observe and listen. What is my plant telling you? Does it look happy or unhappy? Is it getting enough water, sun, and/or nutrients? When I get distracted or lazy, my garden suffers. Period. Maybe I can get away with it for a few days, but the garden will always reflect back to me my efforts. JUST LIKE LIFE.
3) What worked last year, last month or even yesterday may not work today. The garden is a living biome. The environment is different from day-to-day. The garden the day after a storm is quite different from during a heatwave to a beautiful spring day. Of course, it is. And so how I attend to it, will change. And even with experience, if I try to save a plant using a technique that worked last year – even on the same plant – it might not work this year, b/c it is and it isn’t the exact same plant. It has lived and in that life has had traumas and growth spurts. It has different roots. It is living in different soil – perhaps a different container and almost definitely a slightly different location than last year.
JUST LIKE ME : I am not the same person I was yesterday – physiologically, emotionally, spiritually – even the most minute of changes (cells being born and cells dying), create a different person from yesterday. I’ve had new experiences – good and bad that change my emotional landscape. And while experience is helpful in helping in attending to myself, I have to be open to looking at new practices, learning to see myself and my garden anew.
4) I am never done. Regardless of how much I learn and master, there are always fresh hurdles: powdery mildew, rust, whiteflies, aphids, slugs or plants struggling to thrive. Whenever I figure out how to handle one issue, something new takes its place and I have to start from scratch. Sometimes it is a little overwhelming. But I think the lesson here is to always be a student. Each obstacle is an opportunity to learn and grow. And I need the challenges to push myself into the discomfort zone of NOT knowing how to handle something. Otherwise, I’d never push myself to study and learn.
5) Sometimes you have to cut away the deadweight. One of the absolute hardest lessons that I struggle with is cutting back a plant to give it room for new growth. Dead, diseased or even spent blooms can stunt growth. Often the goal is just to deadhead the flowers to force another bloom, or cutting back weak stems or deadends. But sometimes, my plants are too big for their containers or they are so resplendent – they crowding each other. So for them to be continue to healthy, I have to cut back some beautiful foliage to give them space. Absolutely every time I am faced with some deadheading or pruning, I hesitate. There is a miserly fear that comes with this. Perhaps this is the best it will ever be, right? What if it doesn’t regrow or rebloom? I always have to push myself to make a leap of faith. If I trust in this process, nature will do its thing and I will get another bloom or a healthier plant – even if in the interim – it looks kind of janky. (And it often does!) This is where trust in the process is key. Because whether I can see it or not – there is something beautiful waiting on the other side of the awkward adolecensce of a recently pruned plant.
6) It is a miracle. Every spring, when I take out my overwintered containers and see that somehow my little plants survived, my heart explodes with joy. Every success is a triumph… not just in mastery, because I still think I’m quite a novice, but every plant that flourishes, is a piece of an oasis that I helped create. My garden is my co-creation with mother nature. It is powerful. It is beautiful. It mirrors back to me that that absolute splendor on a tiny deck in Brooklyn is possible. And if that is possible, so is absolute splendor in me and the life that I am co-creating with the universe.
7) My garden is worth it. And so am I.
My container garden