our greatest expression & a first-in-twenty-years garden.

tomato-basilthere’s just something about having my hands in the dirt & watching things grow.

peaceful and grounding.

soothing. intentional. life-giving. healing. hopeful.

when i was 12 years old i had surgery, and when i got home after too many days in the hospital, apparently i walked straight through the house to the backyard to check on my vegetable garden.

for our wedding, we got a lemon tree instead of a unity candle. to commemorate our first anniversary we got a fig tree.

to celebrate the birth of our son and my husband’s sweet grandpa’s life-richly-lived, we got a beautiful Charles White peony.

my mother’s day gift this year was a little stunner of a rose bush. as if the sweetly scented, delicate, creamy-apricot-y blossoms weren’t enough, the name is fantastic: Champagne Wishes.

and this spring, i got to build my first garden at our very own house. to say that it’s been a treat to spend mornings and evenings watching things grow is an understatement. for Christmas and my birthday, i asked for a gift certificate for supplies. i poured over catalogues and websites hoping to find just the right mix of trusted, must-grow and fun, new-to-me flower and vegetable varieties to plant in my first-in-twenty-years garden.

as seed-starting and mother nature would have it, there has been plenty of trial & error, anticipation, shriveled seedlings, and excitement woven throughout these past few learning-laden months. i’ve planted & re-planted seeds. some sprouted the first time. some sprouted the second time. some sprouted when i tossed a handful on a patch of bare dirt a few weeks ago. others i’ll try again next year. we had a big storm in the spring with wind that scattered my fledgling vegetable plants, damaging many of them. and as for the raised garden, i planted it late in the season and for sure planted more than i had space for.

we have to start somewhere, right? and sometimes starting is the most important step, even if the rest looks a little more trial & error and a little less polished & perfected. as it turns out, i’m ok with this year being more about simply enjoying that i finally get to have a garden and a yard to experiment in, learning through experience, and tucking observations & tidbits away for next year. i’m a rookie, i tried some things i knew could be challenging, and i often learn best as i go. or maybe i’m just in la-la land since somehow my dahlias & sweet peas are blooming after having absolutely zero success last year. that alone is a gigantic – and beautiful!- win in my book.

florals

as i’ve spent mornings and evenings watering, weeding, and watching our backyard actually turn into something rather pretty, i’ve thought a lot about what it is about gardening that draws me in. because, truth be told, it’s a lot of work. much more work than i anticipated it being back in march/april when my mind was a swirl of idyllic daydreams. it was a fair amount of work & time to build the raised bed. planting took time to plan, prep, and actually do. since our yard was full of random overgrown bushes, digging everything up & preparing the beds was a task and a half. and now the watering, worrying about 90º+ days, and maintaining everything takes time away from other things i’d like to be doing.

but even with all of that, gardening brings me incredible joy & thankfulness, and i’m realizing two things.

dahlias

first, i want to pass gardening on to charlie in some way. not that he’ll want to be in the garden with me all the time or will be a farmer some day…but just the simple joy of watching something grow. the being-together-ness of it. planting seeds with him this spring was an experience i’ll always treasure, and it’s been so fun to see him still get excited to water the plants (tonight’s entertainment: him running back & forth between his water table & a planted container on the patio, watering the rhubarb).

i love that sometimes as he plays in the backyard, he’s running over to me with a bubble wand, as i prune the tomato plants, so that i can blow bubbles with him or with a toy from his water table, as i snip flowers for a bouquet, for me to come splash with him. i’m thankful that he sees and experiences what’s growing around him and that it’s all part of where he lives, plays, and is learning about the world around him.

gardening buddy

second, and probably the most enduring truth in my life about gardening is that it holds immense hope for me. and when so much these days feels uncertain, hard, or discouraging, getting my hands in the dirt, catching a new blossom opening, and watching our vegetables grow feels…healing. it causes me to take a deep breath. to slow down. it restores something that was missing…something that i can’t quite put into words but am deeply grateful for.

floret_truckthe process of creating our little garden began over the winter as i thought ahead to the promise of warmer days. then in march/april when we were all completely over winter, i was able to tuck seeds into their little piles of dirt with hopeful anticipation…waking up each day to see what had sprouted overnight, watching them stretch and grow. once the days were warmer, i nestled the seedlings that had soldiered on through the long, cold winter into the ground, believing that one day, a little bud just might pop out.

then one did! and another. and another! then things started to grow much bigger than i imagined (hello 6 foot tomato plants?!)…some budded but didn’t blossom…a storm/extreme heat left their marks. i know in my head that it’s just a garden/plant/seed, but when those things happened, i felt guilty for having been over-zealous and planting too much, for not planning better, for not thinking of all the random scenarios so that i could have avoided them. and you know what i’m learning (albeit very slowly and with lots of over-thinking)?

sprouts

it’s ok. the plants figure it out. earlier this spring, after a particularly damaging storm hit their farm, our CSA (and favorite) farmer said, “[the plants] mostly just simply re-grow…sometimes even growing back even bigger and more bountiful than before. what a lovely example of resilience for us all as we weather life.” oh my heart, if that it’s so. dang. true.

veggie babes

and i figure it out, too. i trim the squash back to keep them from trampling the carrots. i found 6 foot polls to stake & secure the tomato plants. i let the shallots go & will plant them in a different spot next year. the peony is in the ground now (so its growth won’t be confused by my planting it too late), and i’m guessing it will be just fine. i’ve learned how to prune a rose bush and lemon tree. i’ll try ranunculus again next year.

garden bouquet

while there are things i’ll do differently next year that may result in a few more wins, there will still be lots of learning. and that’s a really good thing. because it means i’m still trying. still hoping. still getting to have these crazy fun, life-giving, special experiences with my boy.

while i have the wonderful gift of gathering little fistfuls of blooms that i grew. watching tiny cantaloupe buds turn into actual growing melons…streaky red-yellow tomatoes grow, slowly but surely…peppers slowly transition from green to bright red.

both/and. the tension of growth & learning, letting go & transitions, holding hope & trusting.

for a seed to achieve its greatest expression,
it must come completely undone. the shell cracks,
its insides come out, and everything changes.
to someone who doesn’t understand growth,
it would look like complete destruction.

~ cynthia occelli

 

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dear beginners, there is a gap.

there is a gap_ira glass

image from 7Plums on etsy

i first stumbled upon this quote from ira glass a few years ago, and it stopped me in my tracks. [side note: i think it’s one of the first things i ever pinned on Pinterest. although the original pin was a different version, a few years may very well = vintage in Pinterest years.]

to this day, i still come back to it regularly. for encouragement, reassurance…and sometimes for a little push. at my core, i am a creative, full of dreams & hope, but i am also a practical realist. as a result, i can easily get caught between the scales of these traits.

at my best, my hopes & dreams cheer me on, and ira’s words are comforting: keep trying new things. you’re not alone! it’s normal that this part is hard. but at my worst, the potential failure, disappointment, rejection, and unmet expectations can be paralyzing. fears loom large, threatening to cast long, dark shadows on my creativity, passions, dreams – everything. i get caught up in ira’s other words: it’s just not that good. a lot of people never get past this phase. it takes a long time (years).

it’s such a normal struggle. not just for a creative – for all of us, in all of our roles.

what i’m learning helps me tip the scales towards hopes & dreams is to be honest with & true to myself. on tough days, i’m learning to acknowledge the fears & even name them (not an easy task). i’m finding that when i know what i’m up against in my mind (fear & doubt’s favorite playground), i can start to knock them down with truth, and i can ask for help & prayer. i’m learning to not push past this part but to instead honor my real feelings. that has been helpful for me in two ways. first, i’m learning to give my real feelings time & space because denying them doesn’t help me grow. second, i’m learning that when i allow myself to feel my real feelings, often i better understand the root of them. as i’ve begun to try to do this more often, i’ve seen some little wins where a past fear or doubt actually motivated me in a positive way to achieve something i once thought was impossible (hello, starting – and re-starting – the blog! hello, writing a post about fears!).

and then, of course, there are the good days. days when i’m humming along jotting ideas, reading blogs & sites that inspire me, trying new things, and dreaming. even those days can get a little sticky here or there, but my perspective is set further ahead. i remind myself of the bigger picture & realize that little bumps are ok – they’re actually part of the adventure.

most importantly, whether it’s a good day or a tougher one, having people who support, encourage, & believe in me makes all the difference. i’m lucky to have people in my life who see & call out of me the potential that i sometimes lose sight of. they hold me accountable, dream with me, cheer me on, and love me unconditionally. being honest with them about my fears helps call out the truth that combats doubt, and wins & growth are that much sweeter to celebrate together.

i have a few more thoughts on this that i’ll follow up with this week, but in the meantime…

do you have some favorite resources that help as you dream & plan? favorite practices or routines?

who are your go-to creative inspirations?

how has having a community/tribe of friends & family helped shape & grow your dreams?

*my friend laura sent me this sweet vimeo version of ira glass’ interview that captures this quote with a visual of a fun overlay of the words. very creative, and it’s great to both see the words and hear ira speaking them.