Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Gardening's Gift of Patience

By Christina VanGinkel

Gardening is a task that teaches patience. You ready the ground, you decide on what will be planted, you plant, and then the real work starts. You water, then you weed, and then you water and weed some more, and then when you think not another weed could possibly sprout, you pull a few more. If you are a good gardener, or a lucky one, at the end of all of the work, you are rewarded with the bounty of your very own harvest! If there is one thing, gardening is not, it is not quick to provide that bounty of rewards, so one must learn the craft of both work and patience. If you are someone who gardens as a passion, even when others have put away their tools for the winter, then your work never ends. You are constantly pruning, and clipping, and training baby plants to grow, even when others would have long ago given up and tossed in the towel.

With the holiday week in full swing in our house, and a heavy blanket of white snow outside, it is a wonder that I am thinking about gardening at all, but in truth, it is one thing that I have been reminiscing, and thinking about, the most. My mother always tended plants year round, inside and out, and when Christmas was on the horizon, she would miraculously pull out her poinsettias and lilies, all in full bloom and a wonder to us kids that something as beautiful as they could exist when everything outside was frozen over in white and nothing resembling life existed.

This of course was long before the super centers of today with their shelves lined up with a selection of both these and other plants just ready for a trip through the checkout lane. Even gardening has taken shortcuts in our modern world, by allowing others to do the work that was once required by those wanting to enjoy the fruits of labor. Where as my mother would have been planning her colorful additions to our holiday table year round, and from year to year, working in her greenhouse, or finding a greenhouse that would deliver weeks in advance, I have the luxury of deciding at the last minute that a bit of red, white, and green foliage would look lovely decorating my home or table. With a quick jaunt to the store and plunking down a few dollars, I can bring home the fruits of somebody else's harvest. From a greenhouse far off, I can even buy a few extra to give as gifts to friends and family.

I replay a speech very similar to what I just wrote, to both my oldest and youngest sons, (minus the part about me running off to buy a few plants at the last minute) as they again ask me if they can open a present. I remind them that it is still five days and counting to the big day, and they look at me as if to ask what in the world that all has to do with opening up a present early. It has to do with learning that things take time, that not everything in life is instantaneous, even though in this fast paced world of instant download software, teller machines that spit cash just by swiping our cards, and pay at the pumps, it may seem like our world is an instant version of what once was.

What needs to be remembered though, is that like the plants that we start in the earliest of spring, that do not ripen until late fall, some things take time, and the longer they take, the better the rewards. If I were to let them open a present now, I try to explain to them, they will have lost all the anticipation that would have built by Christmas morning. Like a pumpkin that has been picked in late summer, almost ripe, but not quite, that has no life as a jack-o-lantern, even though it is orange in color, but not fully-grown, not mature to the point that it could be carved, and even if it were, it would rot and mold long before the arrival of Halloween. So too would their presents be lacking the spirit that would arrive to finish them off come Christmas morning, their luster and newness already diminishing when it should only be starting. There is a lot to be learned from gardening, and patience is by far one of gardening's greatest rewards!

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