We all have those special places that bring an “ahhhhh” to our soul – where we instantly feel our heart rhythm steady, our thoughts relax and we are content to just be for awhile. I can picture so many of mine, and while most of them mean a bit of travelling, there is one that is in my own backyard……literally!
I wouldn’t claim to be a gardener, but I do love flowers, and each spring I eagerly await the last threat of frost to pass to finally make my annual trip to a gardening center where I fill a cart with pansies, geraniums, vincas, marigolds and anything else I think might be hearty enough to withstand my absentminded care. This weekend I decided it was safe to do some planting, so off I went to bring home some organic beauty.
I don’t really have plants in the ground, actually, but in lots and lots of pots (does that even count as gardening?) And before I could plant the 2 dozen or so new plants, I first had to take care of last year’s “beauty”, which after the fall and winter amounted to pots of dried, brown sticks and hard-as-a-rock soil. I set the brightly colored flats of new flowers aside, filled my watering can and got to work. As I moistened the soil and began to remove the remnants of last year’s flowers, I tried to remember what they even were. I honestly couldn’t tell the petunias from the marigolds – all the dried brown looked pretty much the same (did I mention I’m not really a gardener?!) But no matter – out they came, shriveled roots & all to make room for the new tenants.
After cleaning up the soil in each pot and choosing where each new plant would go, I began the process of carefully removing the first plant from its container. It was a good sized geranium that popped right out of it’s temporary plastic pot, and I gave the roots a bit of a squish to loosen them up before placing it in the center of the fresh soil of its new home. As I added more soil around the plant to fill in the pot, I could almost hear that red geranium sigh with contentment as it now had plenty of room to grow. And with a little water and abundant sunshine, I know it will (as long as I remember the water part…) One pot done, 8 more to go!
I finished a few more pots, feeling happier with each addition – the transformation of the patio from winter to spring was happening before my eyes, and I loved the feeling of knowing these little beauties would be around for awhile. Then I came to the 6-packs – the groups of petunias that had all been seedlings together, but were now obviously ready for rooms of their own. As I tried to remove the first plant, the roots were so tightly entwined, I couldn’t remove one without bringing its neighbor. In fact, all six were a root-bound mess, so mingled together the only way to set them free from one another was to literally cut the roots. I didn’t like doing it….I know (at least I think I know) that plants don’t “feel” pain, but it can’t be a good thing for them…..right? But they were clearly going to die if they lived in those petal-to-petal quarters for much longer, so I carefully snipped, separated, and spread the plant roots apart before I placed them in the freshly prepared, nutrient-rich soil. When I went out the next morning to enjoy the new beauty (and to see if they all had survived!), and I’m sure I’m totally projecting here, but of all the plants I potted on the patio, those little petunias just seemed to look the happiest! They were no longer confined to a space where they had no place to go, but could now spread out and do what plants are meant to do….grow.
There are times in our lives when we hardly even notice transitions, like when babies become toddlers; we don’t know when it happens, but clearly it does because one day we’re buying Pull-Ups instead of Pampers. Or we suddenly realize we’ve been at the same house….or the same job…..or with the same partner for 10 – 15 – 20 years. It hardly seems possible – the changes were so gradual, but one day turns to another and we realize we’ve had endless opportunities to stretch out and grow.
But there are other transitions – the ones that are sudden and sharp with pain. We’re torn from the comfort and stability we’ve come to depend on and we’re not sure we can survive on our own. I thought about that as I was snipping those petunias (seriously….this is how my mind works!) I thought about how they would die without being set free from those cramped containers. If they could talk, I seriously doubt they’d say, “Hey, nice lady with the sharp shears – can you please come over here and cut our roots?” But that’s why there are gardeners….to know what they need and to see that they are given every opportunity to thrive.
This is why this time of Lenten reflection is important to me. When I think about the sacrifice of Jesus, the life he lived and the pain he endured so I could be set free – so I could live – it humbles me and fills me with hope that the sudden, sharp pains in my own life will in time, produce something other than dry, brown sticks poking up from hard-as-a-rock soul. With all my heart I want to become a living thing of beauty once more. And so….I choose to trust the master gardener (who is ever so much better with plants – & people – than I) and I’ll keep tending my own little patio garden. Who knows….maybe we’ll both grow. =)