GROW.

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GROW.

Ah, spring. Nature is fresh and new again, with lush green carpet covering the earth, and beautiful green hanging from the trees, bushes, shrubs and plants. Without fail, this promise is renewed every year. Winter backs down, making way for the return of spring. It may seem during the depths of winter that warmer weather will never come back again, bringing its green with it, but it always does. Always.

Gail has been busy with her outdoor gardening. The words Gail and busy naturally flow in the same sentence, so this should not surprise you. She sent me a teaser of what her yard and garden have in store:

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Suzanne, alas, had nothing to offer me. Her sole effort at growing anything is an indoor plant with just one leaf, and she declined to send a picture. And that’s okay.

I will confess that I am not an outdoor gardener. I am fortunate to have a husband who delights in gardening, so I let him do all the work. I simply sit back, and wait to enjoy the fruits of his labor. I know how lucky I am.

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I am, however, an indoor gardener. I have an abundance of green plants indoors, with this “ZZ” plant as my favorite. Its genus name is “Zamioculcas,” and it is also known as the “Zanzibar gem.” I like that name best.

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I found another smaller ZZ plant about a year ago to add to my collection. I repotted it, and set it next to the big one.  When Gail visited, I gave her a starter from the larger plant.  It is growing slowly, but surely–just like mine is.

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We recently remodeled one room; rearranging décor and another plant as well. I wanted to give the small ZZ plant its own stage; it seemed overshadowed by the larger one. This relocation drew my attention to the new growth on the smaller plant. I hadn’t noticed the new bud until now. Something told me to pay close attention to it. Something told me to take a picture.

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The next day, I noticed the slight, but measurable growth. So, I took another picture.

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And another one the next day. And, of course, the next day, and the next day…

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When I took the time to look and really see, the growth became a small miracle, unfolding every day right in front of my eyes.

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Many of my speech therapy patients are several months into their recovery from a stroke, or head injury, or perhaps treatment for brain cancer or other neurological disease. When they become discouraged, expressing that they feel like they haven’t made any progress, I remind them of where they started. When they take a moment to go back to recall those more difficult days at the beginning, they quickly realize they have indeed made progress, and this often buoys their determination to continue to fight to make more gains, to continue to grow.

The promise of spring is this: nature will renew itself every year, no matter what our personal, societal or universal struggles are. The current global pandemic couldn’t stop spring, nor could it stop the bud on my ZZ plant from opening up into glorious, glossy green leaves.

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If we are aware of it, there are so many ways to see growth in nature, both indoors and out.   And, if we pay close attention to the efforts we have made to grow as individuals, we can see our own progress. It may seem as slow and invisible as the bud on my plant, but it’s there. It may seem non-existent like it does for some of my patients, but if you look back to see where you started, you will likely not want to go back to the earlier, more difficult days.

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For myself, I am grateful to remain healthy. I hope all of you are, too. Most of us, however, may feel a sense of uncertainty about the future, and with good reason. I think we all know that the old normal is gone, and we don’t yet know what the new normal will look or feel like.

I have learned from the crises in my life that even though we have no choice but to face them, and also that the old normal is gone, there may be a grand opportunity for personal growth awaiting, but is disguised at the present moment as a crisis.

I was reminded by a Facebook post that, according to a popular psychological theory, that we must first meet our basic physical, mental and emotional needs before we can expect this growth.

This helped me understand that while I do have extra time right now due to decreased work, it has been difficult for me to focus on reaching some lofty writing goals I set forth a long time ago, goals that involve transcending this low-grade, but ever-present uncertainty and anxiety about what the future holds.

So, I cut myself some slack. This doesn’t mean I won’t work toward these goals; it means I realize that before I can grow, I need to feel a sense of personal security that has escaped so many of us right now. It means I realize that, much like the cold winter, this too shall pass, opening up opportunities for new growth in my mind—a mental springtime, so to speak.

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Much like my ZZ plant, I feel a bit trapped in the bud right now. I know, however, there are grand ideas swirling below the surface, and when the new normal asserts itself, and I have had time to acclimate to it, I, too, may just begin to bloom.

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I put the ZZ plant in this beautiful pot when I repotted it. I realize, however, that it may soon outgrow it. And, I may have to break this beautiful pot in order to get it out. It will likely become rootbound, needing more space to grow.

Perhaps, with careful observation, many of us may realize we too, are rootbound. Perhaps the old normal, the old soil and pot we were planted in is too small for us, cramping our growth potential. With a little luck and probably a lot of work, we can find the springtime within, and grow into a new and wondrous living thing.

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GARDENER GAIL

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GARDENER GAIL

“The glory of gardening:  hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature.  To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but the soul.  –William Blake

 

As if her multiple full-time jobs aren’t enough.  And, adding to them, Gail has several side ventures: her Pampered Chef business, her art created from antique wood and tin and she dabbles in oils.  Oh, and she also gardens.

As if.

She already works circles around me and Suzanne, and then she really makes us look like slackers by adding gardening to the mix.  She doesn’t do this to make us look bad, it is simply her high-gear default setting.

And I’m not talking about a few tomatoes and cucumbers, although she does produce those quite well.   I’m talking about onions and beets, too.  And potatoes and peppers–multiple varieties.

 

Oh, I’ve got a garden, all right.  And it’s is an incredible garden.  It’s just that the only work I do in it is eating what comes out of it.  My master-of-all-trades husband Mark gardens, too.  He enjoys it, I don’t.  So, I let him do it.  I think I’ve already made it clear that he is an over-achiever.  Have you ever been in a garden you had to sweep?  He got bored during one stretch several years ago, and after he built the raised boxes, he decided to tile it as well.

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I’m not even kidding.  I couldn’t make this up if I tried. 

**

 

I planted a garden once.  Once.  I was still in high school, and I asked Mom what she wanted for Mother’s Day.  She said she wanted someone to plant the garden for her.  I look like my mother. Apparently, I am like her in the respect that I don’t really like to garden, either.  I didn’t really want to, but she was an awesome mom, and it was Mother’s Day.  

 So, I did.  That was the only time I have ever planted a garden.  I am coming clean right here—I am a lazy, slacker gardener.  That should be no surprise after I admitted my slacker tendencies in last week’s post.

Suzanne makes no claims to be a gardener, either.  Like me, she likes to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of someone else’s labors, but that’s the extent of it. 

This is the extent of her garden this year: 

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Now, as promised, back to Gail’s garden.

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Gail, like my husband is an over-achiever.  Except that that’s all they know, and I am judging in relative terms, so it’s all good.  Good for me when I get to enjoy the fruits and vegetables of their labors.

Gail’s potato patch was green and blooming early in the summer,

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before the heat and repeated blows from several rounds of intense storms recently in western Kansas.

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The backyard took a hit, as did the community.

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Gail wasted no time in cleaning up her yard and garden–as well as helping the community cleanup–and got back to the business of gardening—and living.  She had stuff to do, things to get done.

“Life is like a garden.  We all face storms, and get weeds in our lives, but the end result, if you weather it, is good,” she said. 

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Another of Gail’s multiple talents is that of a canner, canning her garden abundance.  The zucchini, I learned, are gifts from other gardeners.  

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Her canned salsa is perfect in every way.  She also makes a zucchini relish that, while it may not sound versatile or tasty, it is over-the-top on both counts.   She jokes that if you leave your car unlocked in her small town at this time of year, you are likely to find zucchini in it.  She sometimes finds it on her front porch, and she welcomes it.

Mark sometimes refers to his garden as a “salsa garden,” as he plants a lot of tomatoes and peppers.  He then makes an awesome fresh—not canned–salsa from them.  He grows cilantro as well, but it blooms early and not often. 

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“Flowers always make people better, happier and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine for the soul.  –Luther Burbank

Not only does Gail plant a vegetable garden, she has an incredible green thumb for potted flowers as well. 

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My husband has a green thumb for flowers, too.  Every year he plants a variety in the ground and in pots. 

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He knows Mom loved begonias, so he plants a pot of them every year in her honor. 

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Lantanas are favorites for both of us.

I actually got my fingers dirty about ten years ago and planted daffodil bulbs.  I knew they had to be planted in the fall before the first ground freeze, and in my usual slacking fashion, I planted them the day before it froze.  They are the first harbingers of spring, and when they bloom every year, I feel a sense of hope again; I know I can make it through the winter.   

About 12 years ago, my husband and I took a weekend trip in May, and Suzanne watched our boys, then ages ten and seven.  She drove them by the outdoor greenhouse in town, and made the comment that she was surprised that the plants and flowers weren’t stolen, as they were left outside after business hours unattended.  She shared our son’s response:

Our ten-year old, without missing a beat replied: “Only mean people steal, and mean people don’t like flowers.”

**

The house that built us, the farmhouse we all grew up in came down several years ago.  It was time.  My brother and his family live on the farm and have since built a new house there, continuing to be the perfect stewards of that special spot of land.

On the lot where the house stood, they plan to plant a garden. 

Perfect.

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It went by without fanfare last year, and I’m afraid Suzanne’s birthday slipped by again this year.  She was in the hospital last year, and this year she is traveling with her boyfriend.   Another year is always a gift, however, and acknowledging that she added a digit to her age is always a good thing—age is a gift, don’t forget. 

Seven years ago on her birthday, she was given a diagnosis of thyroid cancer.  On her birthday.  Every birthday since then is always a big one, but she will celebrate a really big one next year. 

Gail will celebrate a big one next February.  It will be a good year for birthday parties, and I’m sure you will have the opportunity to read about them.

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The gardens are almost done; it won’t be long before the cold temperatures will render them dormant for another year.  Gardens, even when they appear dead, are always a sign of hope.  Like everything else in nature, it will become alive and vibrant again.  Just like life–time always heals and makes us vibrant again.  After all, life did begin in a garden.

“The most lasting and pure gladness comes to me from my gardens.”—Lillie Langtry.

Mine comes to me from many people in my life, especially my sisters. 

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