lessons learned: hydrangeas and healing

Last night as I transplanted a hydrangea my mom gave me for Easter, this meditation came back to my heart.  Thought I would repost it this morning. ~cameron

We human beings are like plants. We need to be cared for in order to grow and thrive.  It’s not always a perfect formula. In general though, we need to be watered, fed, and sometimes pruned. And just like plants, without enough nourishment, we are not going to make it. And conversely, too much water and food can do us in. Too much pruning will take away the parts that, although ugly, often protect and shelter us.
~ Ben Hamrick

I love my hydrangeas, but by golly, they are one of the most challenging plants in my yard.  I’m not sure why as they love partial shade, and I have plenty of that. Typically, I have to go against my nature of letting the plants “just be” and with the hydrangea bushes, I “just care.”

One year, someone gifted me a beautiful blue Nico that I admired with all my heart.  If I could be a color, it would be that shade of blue.  After nurturing her closely for the summer, I sadly watched her die practically right in front of my eyes.  I don’t know what killed her, but there she sat, brown and ugly.  Out of frustration one day, I got the shears and pruned her back, I mean way, way back, then covered her with oak leaves and hoped she would shoot up in the spring.

Well, she didn’t.

I waited patiently until mid-June and still nothin’.

Finally, I decided to move away all the leaves and just let Nature take her course.  And she did.

Not that year, but the next, up came the Nico.  I could not have been more overjoyed.  In spite of the “care” I had offered, what she had really needed was time to work through it.  She had to find what fed her body and spirit and draw it in.  She had to take the time to heal from all the clips and cuts I’d made to her branches.

Sometimes in our lives when we experience sadness, pain, or challenge, people (and even our own selves) expect us to get through it or get over it.  We are expected to shed the dead leaves and trim away the hurt because we are supposed to be “ok.”

What I’ve learned from that Nico hydrangea is this–our spirits were created to adapt and heal, but only if we give them the time they need to do so.  Honoring the pain and working through it is part of the journey–providing us with the opportunity we need to be sheltered and protected so we can heal and grieve.

As autumn arrived this year, I looked at my sweet Nico bush.  She’d spent a summer growing fresh flowers for the kitchen table and big blooms for dried arrangements.  As I tucked her in for her long winter’s nap, I was mindful about how I prepared her for the season ahead.  I wanted to leave her with what she needed to be restored and whole again next summer.

hydrangea young
young Nikko Blue bloom on the farm, Summer 2012

feb 2017, dear cameron. . .

February 2017

Dear Cameron,

I know you are busily approaching Spring 2017 with much excitement and anticipation of a full summer garden.  You are dreaming of expanding your homestead even bigger, maximizing sun space and growing plants vertically.  You are imagining arms full of zinnias and hydrangea, lustrife and coneflower.  As you empty the last of your sun-dried tomatoes in the Italian saute, I know you envision row after row of vines heavy with ripe red fruit, lush stalks of fragrant basil, and bulbous heads of white garlic.

Well, stop.

Just stop.

This isn’t like having a baby–forgetting the labor pains long enough to procreate another little one to love.

Creation in the garden never stops multiplying, and that’s the truth.

Remember last summer how you could barely keep up with the snake grass choking out the blueberry bushes and hydrangea.  What about the zinnias that kept popping up everywhere because you couldn’t bear to take the life of another living creature?

Oh, and then there’s the okra and corn and beans that all tickled your fancy as you perused the seed catalog, but ended up as the least, lost, and forgotten when the rains didn’t come.

Girl, don’t get me started on the tomatoes.  Whoever said you couldn’t grow healthy plants from seed directly sewn in the garden–well, I hold you responsible.  Who can possibly eat, dry, and sauce 22 plants of 6 different varieties when they hit their peak?

Not the girl who started a new job last summer.

And by the way, when did your daughter who ate grape tomatoes every day for lunch in middle school decide she no longer ate them off the vine in high school?

Please, please, please–do not consider planting anything in the squash family.  Clearly, the squash vine borer and lady beetle larvae have learned that Growing Grace Farm is a veritable feast of delicacies.  Face it, you’ll never grow organic squash again.

And remember, between post-cancer menopause and climate change, summer will never be the same–you’ll be dreaming of winter in spite of any vegetable that you have time to harvest.

So let’s do this. . .

Minimize planting space. Simplify how much you need to take care of.  That will support sustainability, not just of the environment but of your mental health as well.

Grow what you know.  It’s fun to experiment, but really, let’s leave the creative veggies to the organic farmers who do this for a living.  Let’s focus on a few items we know will do just fine here on the homestead.

Don’t plant so much.  You’re not feeding a family of 10, nor do you have the freezer or cabinet space to put away food for the second coming.  Plant enough to enjoy the taste of summer without sacrificing your sanity.

And most importantly, remember you have a life outside of this little farm.  You have friends and family, art projects and new recipes, hikes with your daughter and walks with the dogs.  Keep it all in perspective.  Your garden should be a “want to” not a “have to.”

Ok, that’s all I got.  Now, step away from the seed catalog and go enjoy the last snowstorm of the year–goodness knows, you’ll be praying for it a few months from now.

Take care~