Saturday, April 22

What Is and What Will Be

Yesterday morning, I was sitting at our newly acquired outdoor table, drinking my cuppa tea and reading the Hometown Times. It's lovely to have a few minutes of calm in the morning, enjoying the sun and surveying the day's developments in the garden. I take great joy in the tiniest changes in the plants - the first two-leaved sprout, the opening and closing of flowers with the sun, even the dying of the flowers after they've bloomed. There's a Zen, focus-on-the-present and appreciate-the-small-things benefit of caring for a garden. We are always amazed by the "miracle of life" - that a whole plant and a summer of food for our tables can grow from a single seed.

I am reminded of something I learned at the Easter service I attended last Sunday - when Moses asks the name of the deity in the Burning Bush, and it responds "I Will Be What I Will Be." It's interesting that the divine is a plant, because to me this seems to be the miracle of seeds. With very little influence from us humans, seeds will be what they will be. I often think of the seed that when planted, after thousands of years, germinated and grew.

(Is it significant that this seed also has biblical/Jewish history?) I find it comforting that only the most egregious errors on our part could interfere with the natural processes of life, which thankfully will produce a bounty of garlic, peppers, tomatillos, and herbs for us to enjoy.

But there's another, darker side to the life of a gardener: never being satisfied. Of course, this is especially exacerbated in your first year in a garden long-neglected by previous tenants, but I understand that this same phenomenon happens to veteran gardeners. A landscape-designer friend who had been tending a stunning, double-wide garden for three decades confessed to me that she couldn't even sit in the garden and enjoy it, because all she could see is all the work that needs to be done. She described it as "hundreds of children crying out" to her.

During my seemingly idyllic breakfast, I was struck with awareness of this tendency in myself. I look at the back shade garden and see only what's wrong with it, how it needs more plants and some flowers, how I need to move the rainbarrel and create an edge. The areas around the lampposts are begging to be dug and seeded. What to do about the holly bushes? I really want to get the sunflowers in the ground, but will building the fence disturb them? The whole to-do list of the garden (which reasonably could be planned over the course of several years) comes rushing in at me every morning, noon, and night as I walk through or look down on the yard.

I think this same "Improver's Eye" afflicts home restorers. We have the right-now, this-month, and long-term plans for our properties. We look at falling-down wrecks and imagine what castles they can become. We see layers of paint and envision gleaming woodwork. We happily commit every cent of discretionary income, every moment of free time for the foreseeable future to our grand plans. Everything is a project. And while "the process is the reward," this constant striving for What Will Be does prevent the simple enjoyment of What Is right in front of us.

So, housebloggers, have you found a third path? A balance point? Do you have strategies for setting aside the To-Do list in your mind and enjoying some peaceful moments?


At 1:54 AM, Anonymous Timothy said...

A third path - I'm not so sure about but I do know that when I get frustrated with the progress of a project or lack thereof, I just look at my before photos and see just how far I've come.


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