Lessons from the garden

08-06-2009 2:00 PM

As I've continued on my life's journey, one of the many things that I have learned about myself is that I am a creator/producer.  I like to "make things".  In my early years, it was crafts and sewing.  I'd often just get a piece of fabric and sit down with the scissors and begin cutting and sewing, without a pattern, because I saw in my head what I wanted to create. (Perhaps I was really meant to be a fashion designer.)  My next phase of production was children and the things that I could create through my work at Mary Kay, like products and marketing tools.  As I continued to move up in the organization and focus more on strategy and leading others, I became less involved in the actual day-to-day creation of things.  It took me a few years to figure out that I was actually missing the creating/producing process and the sense of accomplishment that comes at the end when you actually have the "thing" that you envisioned in the beginning.  Since that was no longer a part of my work, I needed to find another way to recapture that feeling and once again satisfy the creator/producer in me.  One of the things that I found was a vegetable garden.  Little did I know when I began this project last fall that it was going to provide me with many valuable lessons that I could apply to other areas of my life.  Maybe they weren't new lessons, but visible reminders of things that have often been forgotten.

Lesson #1 - What a difference a day makes!

One of the things I look forward to every evening is my post-dinner visit to the two raised beds in the backyard to see what is ripe for the picking today.  With very few exceptions, there is usually something ready to harvest that wasn't ready yesterday.  It reminds me to give other things (ideas, projects, people) the time that they need to "ripen", and that may not necessarily be on MY schedule.  Of course, the growing and ripening doesn't actually happen in the course of 24 hours, but has been happening all along, little by little, since it was planted.  It also reminds me to "sleep on things", because very often a situation can look dramatically different (or at least your perspective on it) the next day.

Lesson #2 - Timing is important, and even though you do everything right it doesn't always work out

Before I did my planting this spring, I researched the last average frost dates for north Texas, which is around the middle of March.  So, that's when I did my planting.  Well, average means just that, sometimes it's earlier and sometimes it's later, and this year was definitely later.  We had two more freezing nights after that, so I lost several of my plants.  I did my research, consulted the experts and followed their advice, and it still didn't work out. That's the way it is with life sometimes; many things are a gamble, with pros and cons on each side of the decision.  You have to land on one side or the other, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes the win or loss maybe due to nothing other than the timing wasn't right.

Lesson #3 - Consistency pays big dividends

Providing consistent amounts of water on a regular schedule makes all the difference in the quality of the vegetables I harvest.  Too much too fast, and the tomatoes crack.  Too little not often enough and they wither and stop producing.  Also, if you don't pick what has been produced, the plant thinks it doesn't need to reproduce anymore, so it stops producing.  Ditto for work, life, exercise, nutrition, relationships, etc.

Lesson #4 - A bountiful harvest comes in many small baskets

Even though all the seeds were planted at the same time, each plant is on it's own schedule, and I find that I harvest a little bit at a time, over a long period of time.  The entire bounty does not all arrive at once.  I think oftentimes we are looking for the big bounty of life to appear, and lose sight of the fact that we've harvested so much already along the way.

Lesson #5 - You can't plant fall without digging up spring

Now's the time to begin the planting of the fall produce.  Challenge is that some of the spring and summer crops are still producing.  There will be no room in the garden for the new fall crops until I get rid of the ones that are left from last season.  Reminds me of how I can't move forward into the future if I'm allowing something from the past to keep me deeply entrenched there.  Sometimes the things we need to "dig up" are deeply rooted, and we may even think that they are still serving some purpose for us; but we can only reap the richness of the future by making room in our lives for new growth and new seeds to be planted.

This a only a handful of what the garden has taught or reminded me of.  There's more,  but perhaps the most important reminder of all is this:  There are lessons to be learned each and every day, right in front of our eyes, from simple and ordinary things, if we are willing to see them.  Look for the lessons.