The Idiot’s Garden

A new friend in my pottery class gave me a box full of plants for my garden today. I have to say, of the six or so different species she gave me, I can only name one: the lambs ears. And I remember those because I specifically asked for them. The others are a mystery. There’s a beautiful dripping succulent, a lovely smelling mat of ground cover, some droopy leaves, another with round and wavy leaves, and one brown leafless specimen that I think I planted upside-down, with the roots sticking up in the air. I honestly couldn’t tell which end was up. I have splinters in my butt and pollen-induced snot in my nose. But I planted them, watered them, and wished them luck. “I don’t know what you are,” I said. “But I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you survive.”

A similar event happened last year, when friends gave me extra veggies they didn’t have room for in their garden. I knew nothing. I stuck them in the dirt and watered them and talked to them and hoped they would keep growing. And miraculously, they did – mostly, except the worm-infested cauliflower, which I finally gave up on. The generous donors asked me if I had Ph tested the soil or included compost tea, and I looked at them as though they were speaking Swahili. Because to me, they were. So this is my second year for what I call an “idiot’s garden.”

I’m learning, though. I now know what Ph-testing is, though I don’t do it. And I have a composter and compost tea. I knew enough today when I was digging to be careful and nice with the worms and indifferent (if not outright hostile) to the ants. But if you asked me what I have growing in my garden, I would point to the lambs ears and name them and then admit I have no idea what else is in there. I really do wish those little guys the best of luck. With me as their caretaker, they’re going to need it.

But here’s the thing. I love it. I LOVE IT. I love to garden and plant things and watch them grow. I just don’t know what the hell I’m doing. But for now, I don’t really care that much. Mostly because I’m just lucky, and I have friends who do know who are willing to teach me. And because life does seem to hang on, even in the most trying of circumstances. And what’s true in the garden is true, I think, everywhere else.

Take pottery, for instance. And poetry. And Zumba. These are all things that I love, love, love to do. And I think I can safely say that I suck at all of them. But I don’t care. I used to care. I used to care a lot. When I was in high school, I wouldn’t even try something if I even thought I may possibly not be awesome at it. I “lost interest” in any number of things because I wasn’t already good at them, or if I didn’t pick them up very quickly. I stopped horseback riding after one year, because you know what? That shit is *hard.*

But you know what else? LIFE is hard. Living is hard. I’m not a defeatist. I don’t think it sucks or isn’t worth living. Not at all. Life is full and beautiful and challenging and boring and thrilling. It is all of these things, but one thing it is NOT is easy. And maybe I just had to live long enough to learn that lesson, so that I no longer give a shit if I look foolish in Zumba class or my pottery flops over or looks wonky. Maybe it’s a sign of maturity. Or just acceptance of my own imperfections. So now I’m taking pottery and Zumba because *I LIKE THEM* and not because I’m waiting for someone to praise me for being so amazing.

I may not know what I’m doing, but the plants seem to, and so does the clay, and so does the music. So when I surrender to those things and let them carry me away with them, that’s when I *feel* amazing. And that’s what counts the most.

 

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