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The Patience of a Gardener

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace." - May Sarton

This year I decided to push myself into brand new territory as a gardener. In February, I decided that I would no longer just grow things to feed my family members' bodies. I would attempt to grow things that might also feed our souls - might bring us the gifts of hope and beauty. And so was born the idea of a "Cutting Garden".

It began as a few boxes filled with tiny seeds, nurtured into life in mid-winter, when hope seemed as far away as springtime. With all of us stuck inside, I suppose you could say we quarantined together - my flower-starts and my family.

Among my seedlings, were some brand-new-to-me, exotic looking ranunculus and anemone corms. These arrived in my mailbox in protective wrapping, which was carefully peeled away to reveal strange octopus-like tubers. I soaked them and buried them in soil with my fingers crossed - while our backyard continued to be buried in snowfall after successive snowfall.

On the day that I began to see green poking through the dark soil, my squeals of delight could be heard all over the house. The snow still came, but spring was beginning inside.

Even after the tiny plants were moved outdoors into the chilly soil of March, the snow continued to fall. Yet another four weeks of temperamental weather, proved that writer, T.S. Eliot, was indeed justified in calling April "the cruellest month". The days of sun in April, that warmed the tips of each ranunculus and anemone's green leafy fingers, were quickly forgotten on those nights when flashlights shone over the garden and emergency tarps were laid like baby blankets over my precious seedlings. I would not fail them. I hoped.

Then came May - with its sudden heat and lack of rain. I compensated the dried out soil with daily doses of cool water from the hose, while my giggling children played in the spray beside me.

Finally, just as I began to fear that blooms might never come, a shock - a thrill - coursed through me when one morning I realized the shape of a flower head was emerging from the centre of one of my plants. It seemed a miracle.


June is a beautiful month. It is a month of daily births in the garden, here in Zone 6. This June the irises arrived first. Next the peonies. And the roses. Then all of a sudden, up came my long-awaited, carefully-tended ranunculus and anemone. Tall, proud, impressive. Like an idea that takes root in the mind and materializes as some great achievement, my flowers had bloomed. They had succeeded. I had succeeded.

This afternoon, as I gazed at my anemone and ranunculus, finally, triumphantly returned into my home again like prodigal sons in their vases, I realized the two important lessons that growing these two new varieties of flower had taught me.

First, I realized that success in the garden, as in life, is the result of daily action. Taking slow, incremental steps toward a goal is the way we learn how to achieve new things. Secondly, success in the garden - and I suspect also in the rest of life - is mostly about patience. Trusting in the process. Believing in grace. Growing the gift of gratitude inside your heart for each new stage of a journey. And remembering to always have hope for whatever unknown, beautiful future lay ahead.


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