Things that grow

It is my greatest joy…
watching things grow.

Tomatoes.
Chickens.
Sunflowers.
Children.

Just look up at any given time and you’ll find yourself surrounded by things that are growing.
Being around these things every day you don’t notice how fast it all happens.
The daily routine keeps you focused on the task at hand…
And then all of a sudden there is lettuce where there was just dirt.
Feathers where there was just fluff.
A toddler walking across a log no longer requiring your assistance.
A grey hair in your pony tail.

With everything that grows I fight a constant ‘hurry up’ and ‘slow down’ battle.
“I cant wait for you to grow up and get yourself dressed, but could you please just stay little and snuggle on my lap?”
“I am so excited to harvest that Kale, oh dear, is it already May? I haven’t planted my zucchini!”
“When will these chickens lay eggs? oh golly, not yet! We don’t have the coop done!”

What also comes with growing things is a tremendous sense of pride.
Every carrot plucked from the ground is triumph.
Every first step, first word, first day of school is another milestone.
Here is a picture from my potato harvest, staged like a newborn child…

I am always trying to learn more about the way things grow.
Evenings that once were spent sipping raspberry vodka, are now full of you tube videos on pruning raspberry plants.
Instead of consuming platters of hot wings I am looking up chicken feed for laying hens…
reading articles about vitamin c and composting…
potty training and booster seats….
fertilize, but not too much.
water, but don’t overwater.
throw a cheerio in and try to get them to aim at it….

But of course, what I have learned in all of the research and experimenting experience,
is to REALLY understand how things grow,
all you have to do is observe.
Know your own soil, your own kid.
What works for a farmer in Michigan isn’t going to work the same for a Whidbey Island tomato.
The cheerio trick only works for the kids that won’t cry when you throw a perfectly delicious snack into their potty.
You must give space for things to grow on their own, but offer support when needed.

This summer I was completely immersed in growing things.
Some things were planted with intention… Walla walla onions all neatly in a row.
Compost carefully mixed into soil…
Rules followed…
Tomato plants bursting with fruit.

Other things were growing despite being planted by 4 year old hands,
who dump entire seed packets into holes and then have their 2 year old brother tromp back and forth over them for the entirety of summer…

Some plants were propped up with sticks, some were thinned out to help them get bigger, some were in beds that had been recently weeded, some were climbing up a trelis.

… and some were growing in mangled heaps, through cracks, over fences, anywhere they could find sunlight.

One sunflower that popped up behind our fire pit that grew against all odds, without bird netting or compost or even anyone noticing it until it bloomed.

I stood there thinking as I gazed up at that sunflower.
Stewing on the different ways that things grow.

I think of my own boys and how different they are.
One who is outgoing and confident but also incredibly clumsy and goofy.
This one could go about his day wearing nothing but dirt and backwards undies and be perfectly content.
He could grow in a pile of manure, provided it was well watered and had plenty of worms.
He would be a ground cover that spread out, twisting itself around everything he came into contact with, eventually taking over your whole garden.

One needing more patience and assurance.
My little perfectionist.
He likes his garden weed free and a Ph balanced soil.
He would be a bulb that you plant in the Fall.
when the blooms finally come in the Spring,
they are bright and beautiful, each petal just right.

And one who is…
well…
picture the most hardy, grow-anywhere-despite-the-conditions plant…
maybe a cactus?
and that’s Finn.
There is no fence or pot that can contain a Finn….
He’s a wildflower for sure.

They are all thriving.
Each requiring different things to grow…
…and a few things that are the same.
They just want to be seen for who they are and be encouraged to grow in their own way.

I am reminded of a conversation I had with my Dad in High School.
We were driving and I was telling him my newest plan to take over the world.
Back then there was a new plan every week and he listened to them all.
I remember on this particular day he said…
“I am not worried about you, you’ll be successful no matter what you end up doing… that’s just who you are.”
And I thought about that over and over as I grew up,
I believed those words he said to me and still do.
I often wonder if I hadn’t had such a ‘non-conventional’ gardener for a Dad,
if I would have been encouraged to take a more stream-lined ‘go get a real job’ path.
As it was I was the lone sunflower behind the fire pit, just needing a little water and some sunshine to live the life I wanted.

I read somewhere that when sunflowers get tall, they may need a stick to reinforce their stem in case of wind.
I think sticks are for sunflowers what words of encouragement are for people.
All of the sunflowers in my garden get sticks, even the ones I didn’t plant.
With everything that grows there is opportunity to observe,
but also encourage.
Fertilize, but not too much…
water, but don’t over water….
One thing is for sure…
Things always grow in the direction of the sun.
If you can be that sun, that stick, that encouragement for others,
you might find that it will actually help you grow as well.

next up…. It’s not easy, but it’s simple….

1 comment / Add your comment below

  1. Yet another new writing. I look forward to your witty yet encouraging words. I hope to someday see a book of all your wonderful stories. Keep me coming!

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