I pruned and weeded the front-yard landscaping today. Let’s pretend I’m British for a sec, and call it a garden. So much nicer. Today I pruned and weeded the garden. That’s better, innit?
It was a mammoth task since I’ve been traipsing about all summer NOT pruning or weeding.
Gardening is not my forte. My dad excelled at making anything grow. He knew the street (?) names and the Latin names of most plants we encountered, wild or domestic. He pushed us into family gardening projects during my childhood and teen years, and yet still, it just didn’t take for me.
It’s too hot and dirty, sticky and prickly for my liking. I’m a gardening avoider. I like being clean and cool, preferably while reading a book.
But, I want my front yard (garden!) to look acceptable, and I had been sadly remiss this summer. Even worse, when we were gone on a family vacation for ELEVEN WHOLE DAYS, our sprinkler system somehow remained off (we aren’t casting blame, but it may have involved a mistake on the part of a certain kid, or a certain parent, or a combination of the two). This was in July, when Utah is “hotter’n blazes” as my dad used to gleefully say.
The landscaping took a beating.
So as I was out there this afternoon, in the overcast heat with thunder rolling in the distance, sweaty and hacking off branches and dead heads, I started thinking allegorically, as one does, about gardens and dead things and life.
I envisioned my garden every year previous to this one. Despite my laissez-faire approach to growing things, this is how it generally goes:
- We plant some flowers and things after Mother’s Day.
- We water said things pretty regularly.
- I sort of ignore all things yard related; the boys keep the lawn mowed.
- Mid summer, I attack the weeds and admire the growth of the shrubs and plants.
- By early fall, the front yard flourishes in a glorious final curtain call before the first freeze, at which point I prune it all back in preparation for winter.
It was predictable, my garden. I may have been a mostly absentee gardener, but despite this, the zinnias bloomed richly and the dogwoods gregariously tried to take over everything (my dad said that dogwoods are always trying to take over the world, which is true).
I saw the garden as something which took some work and some water. With these gifts, it unfolded in a predictive path to full, leafy fruition.
Reader, this year I messed it all up.
The absenteeism and the lack of water and the neglect interrupted the natural order of my simple, yet pretty little garden. It looked bad. Parts were dying, parts were out of control.
With sadness, I could see that my yard wasn’t going to be the same this year. I did damage control. I pruned and pulled and chopped and tossed until my arms were shaking.
“Why am I so bad at this,” I chastised myself.
And all I could think about was how this was very much like my life. Cue the analogy.
I grew up and had a family with the expectation that it would grow and look like everyone else’s. And then my life became a PSA for autism awareness. And nonverbal kiddos, intellectual disabilities, residential care, special-needs parenting, and Jesus. My family grew all right, but in unexpected ways.
My life did the same thing that my garden did this summer, meaning it didn’t go according to plan. Contingencies happened. Things were and are usually a pretty big mess.
As I was mulling over all of this, Charlie came outside and asked me if I could use some help. He’s an observant and a joyful helper, that one. We proceeded to prune and gather up the weeds and the clippings, at which point Truman joined us and offered to sweep off the porch and the walk.
With my two little boys working beside me, my load was lighter. I pushed my damp bangs off my face and surveyed the yard. It didn’t look great, but it looked better.
I’m realizing that I don’t know how to complete this allegory. “Life is garden requiring care and love and nourishment blah blah blah, and sometimes things happen to interrupt the garden’s original landscape design yada yada yada…”
I don’t know where to draw the moral from the experience, other than to say, I don’t know how my garden will look, come fall.
Families and front yards aren’t predictive text. And predictive text only gets so much right, anyhow. It frankly can’t be relied upon.
If there is a lesson in the drastic swath I cut today, it’s that life will intervene and reorganize the trajectory of our efforts.
With my gloves, my pruners, my arms, and my sons, I engaged in the garden disaster, and it improved.
Fruition doesn’t happen in a single season.
And green things continue to unfurl.