Lessons from Gardening

Lessons from Gardening by Sarah Bradshaw

Last month Buck and I took a Spring Staycation— we took the week off of work and spent the better part of our days working on our yard. We pulled weeds, dug up roots, planted shrubs and perennials, built a small structure to hide our trashcans and shelter our stroller (so exciting, I know), and worked on our farmers tans. I can’t remember the last time I felt so inspired and fulfilled by physical labor!

I focused most of my attention on the front garden beds. When we bought the house nearly two years ago, the front beds were full of beautiful bushes that were (sadly) overgrown and diseased, overrun with poison ivy. We cut them down, and decided to leave the garden beds alone for the time being. We planned to fill them with something beautiful in the future, but left the some roots of the old shrubs behind.

So they just stayed there. In the ground and the soil, dead and dirty and decomposing, hidden from the world. Rotten. Forgotten. That is, until I thrust my shovel into the ground that Monday morning, and hit a large root. When I tugged, it released with ease, and left rich, nutritious soil behind.

The dead roots gave food for new life.

The next day I set to work on a spot in the back yard where I intended to plant lavender. The soil was thick, tough, full of clay and stubborn (living) roots. I spent hours digging, yanking, tugging, chopping, and even then the ground was reluctant to yield to my shovel and hands. The live, pre-existing plants presented the worst problem— thick ivy roots refusing to budge, even when I took an ax to them.

As I turned over the dirt, I was shocked by the parallels in my own life and business.

Lessons from Gardening by Sarah Bradshaw

We’re often like that front garden bed, the one that needed all of the bushes chopped down and hauled away, with roots left behind to rot. We dream big dreams and make lofty plans and attempt huge things, and we often look great from a distance. But on closer inspection, sometimes the things we cling so tightly to aren’t right for us at all. Perhaps they’re borrowed dreams from someone else’s life, or they’re plans that are outside the scope of our capabilities and callings, or they’re desires that have been poisoned by jealousy or greed. 

Sometimes dreams and desires need to be cut down and left to sit for awhile. And I have often found that those dead dreams and surrendered plans provide rich soil for growing new, better, more perfect dreams and plans.

I’ve seen it time and time again in my own life— a dead-end in my pursuit of international photojournalism that led me into wedding photography (and the best job I could imagine for myself), a break-up that led me to DC where I met my husband, getting fired from what I thought was my dream job that led me to buy a camera in the first place. And these are just the big ones, the highlights! I could list out dozens of small “happy endings” to seemingly dreadful circumstances. I know I sound like I’m overly optimistic here, but the truth is that there are no dead-ends in life.

Winter always ends in Spring. There are no endless nights— the sun breaks over the horizon every morning.

Contrast that to the garden bed with living, but unwanted and harmful roots still fighting for life. When I’ve tried to grow new things where old, harmful roots still live, they can choke the new life out of baby plants. The roots compete for nutrients, and sometimes the new, good thing starves to death at the hands of a desire that should have been given up ages before.

Are you facing what feels like a dying dream? Take heart— it may be that you’re preparing for something even better in the future. Death often gives way to life. Take the long view, the birds-eye view, and trust the process.
Lessons from Gardening by Sarah Bradshaw

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