After staying at Susan’s garden sanctuary on Mercer Island, I came back to the noise and drifting dirt of construction sites guilty about neglecting plants that have somehow survived despite me. And it was hard not to contrast Susan’s intentionality with my lackadaisical attitude toward the greenery in my care.
When I consulted Kate, on whose small patio grow marigolds and herbs, she encouraged me to tend my plants right away and perhaps add a few colorful favorites. This advice, my memory of Susan making the her garden rounds each day plus the recent impetus from goal setting set me to rescue a drooping fuchsia, which for some reason had a cactus for a pot mate, to water a gasping tree with more than tears of regret for its neglect. How hard would it be to weed, to swirl the dirt and debris on the concrete toward the drain; or to add Salvia and Kangaroo Paws to the empty containers scattered by a wall?
But this willingness to take responsibility was the result of more than meditating in Susan’s garden and skipping through Lowes with Kate. I intend the garden to be more than a temporary fix-it project. Repotting, feeding, and weeding will be me aligning my actions with my stated values – the interconnected web of all beings, for one. I will take specific small steps to put things right. And my neighbors might not need to avert their eyes from my droopy greenery and muddy concrete.
I see tending the garden as doing what is needed rather than bypassing personal effort to get results that require nothing but watching others work and paying them for their efforts. To do the work myself could be called a step into growth (or undergrowth). If I sweet-talked my grandson into doing the work or appealed to kind neighbors, I would be stepping back into the safety of doing what I have done in the past – taking the easier way.
But paying attention to the patio is one way to become aware of what it means to step forward into growth instead of resting in the safety of habitual behavior, that easier way. For example, it would be no effort to wait for rain to puddle the dirt and debris whereas I feel sore and tired when I sweep and hose down the patio myself .
I admit to having generally preferred the easier way and easily justified my habitual behaviors. But something is changing. Even if the change is being aware that my past choices have been habitual. I know that I have other options than to fall back into the safe and familiar patterns of the past. I want to become conscious of how my future will be shaped by moment-to-moment decisions.
And I admit my small efforts aren’t the same as working in a community garden or raising food on my land as many city dwellers do. Yet I do feel joy in the small responsibility I have accepted for the privilege of a patio of plants that catches the morning sun in the Civic Center.