Sunday, May 12, 2013

Tending Other Gardens

Last year, the scouts were gathering at my house to leave for a week-long camping trip. As we were standing around waiting, the leader, a man I greatly respect and genuinely like, and who is incredibly accomplished and knowledgable in many subjects, asked about a plant growing in my garden.

There is nothing like suddenly seeing something familiar through an outsider's eyes. Oh my poor garden. Rather than just say, "It's called Lamb's Ear," and move on,  I instantly became very self-conscious about the state of my yard. It was out of control with weeds, plants needed dividing, edgings were untidy and it had, in my eyes, a decidedly unkempt look, rather than the careless elegance of an English cottage garden I liked to imagine. Ha. I was mortified.

As is my way sometimes (what am I saying? It's my way every time!!), I immediately began making excuses about how springtime is always the busiest time for the kids in school and then usually I'm involved with church camps and youth conferences in late spring/early summer, so my garden is always more neglected than I would like. I was getting more and more embarrassed by the minute.

He looked at me kindly and said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world, "So, what you're saying is that you were tending other gardens." 

His simple comment stopped my stumbling apology for my ragged garden in mid-sentence. He had seen my life for what it really was and summed it up in one soul-warming observation.

In the time since, almost a year now, that moment and his words have become treasures to my soul. I write about it now because I constantly thought of it yesterday as I considered how to conduct my day. I've been really busy lately, keeping my schedule as open as possible to help the missionaries, working on several deadlines for work, and trying to get ready for Sam to come home in a couple of weeks. A beloved friend was in town this week and we spent time together. The house was untidy and a bit neglected, my schedule was packed, and I was feeling a bit anxious and stressed.

In spite of that, all day long I decided to choose people and relationships over things and appearances. It was hard. Here is what was on my list that did NOT get done yesterday
  • Vacuum. 
  • Get the chipped polish off my toenails
  • Repaint toenails
  • Cook a meal for the missionaries
  • Make the bed
  • Unload the dishwasher
  • Work on the new flower bed I'm designing in the front yard
  • Clean the bathroom 
  • Clean my office
  • Pay bills
  • Go buy a lovely card and gift for a newly married couple
  • and probably about 6 other things that could be classified as important
So, I was mocked all day by my dirty house, my annoying toenails, dustbunnies that were threatening revolt, bare dirt in the front yard, piles of papers, and a messy bedroom. Sigh. 

But I have to tell you that my friend's wisdom came into my mind over and over again yesterday, the day before Mother's Day, the Great Holiday of Mixed Emotions, and I decided to tell my mind to cease and desist so I could tend the gardens that were most important, even though the results would NOT be worthy of anyone's putting them on Pinterest. So, here is what I DID do yesterday: 
  • Participated in the Girls On the Run of Central MD 5K and reveled, (yes reveled I tell you-it was glorious!) in the joyful smiles of the girls I've helped coach toward this day
  • Ran with two treasured friends
  • Dashed & Stashed enough of the clutter to set the table and make a pretty salad for my young friend who SOUGHT ME OUT to have lunch with her. I almost called her back and said no, I just can't do it today, but what a delightful hour that was. It would have been a terrible mistake on my part to waste that moment with her. 
  • Hugged a bride whom I've known for most of her life
  • Hugged a few other not-often seen pals at the reception
  • Spent 10 sweet minutes with an old friend AND got to see some of my photo work on display in her home-it was bringing joy, which reminded me of what I love about being a photographer (sometimes I want to give that up, too, because I think I don't measure up. To what? Not sure, but you know how that goes). 
  • Made it out alive from Costco on a Saturday afternoon with enough food for two dinners that will not cause anyone any extra work. 
  • Enjoyed some of that food and some wonderful conversation with those missionaries I love so much and our elderly guest who would otherwise have been eating alone. 
So there you go. The tasks in the first list are important, and I actually got around to a few of them late in the evening, or at least enough to keep the deadliest bacteria and the scariest dust bunnies at bay. Mostly though, I'm grateful I get to remember these scenes from yesterday and earlier in the week. 

This really, really is what matters most, and I know that, and I usually choose that better part (even if it is with an elevated heart rate) but I worry all the time that the untended gardens actually will count against me someday. Luckily, when I look at these photos, my heart slows down and I know once again that I've taken care of what's truly most important. 

My darling friend. She soothes my soul. 

The most beautifully prepared dinner I've
had in a very long time

We managed to get locked inside Piney Run park for two
hours on Friday night during a thunderstorm. It's the reason I
was so behind on Saturday morning, but Oh the hilarity
that two 45-ish year-old teenagers can have with that situation!
I wouldn't have missed it for the world!

Me and my precious pal. 

My dear friend and our surprisingly pretty lunch. Not bad for
15 minutes of preparation. 


  1. I adore you. Thank you for your perspective on this mixed emotions holiday. You bless so many lives.

  2. You are the best gardener EVER. This I know.

  3. Thank you for a beautiful post. I needed to hear these words today more than you will ever know. And now I am off to tend to one of my sweetest gardens....

  4. I just love this. I seem to be ALWAYS tending other gardens, and sadly, my tinsy little garden cannot be actually tended with all the shoveling and bending over it needs, unless Jake does it for me. So it may end up being ugly this year, and you know what? That's ok. I'm growing other things besides flowers, I suppose. :)

  5. I really like that thought, it totally speaks to me and all the volunteering I get myself into. What a kind friend to make that observation for you.

  6. Thank you, thank you for this post. Wonderful. I needed to read this. I feel so blessed to be your friend and to have benefited from your excellent gardening skills. :)


Thank you for sharing your insights!