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6 Life Lessons I Learned From Gardening

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6 Life Lessons I Learned From Gardening

Meadow Linn Shows Us Where To Find The Messages Hidden In Your Backyard
Meadow  Linn
Meadow Linn More by this author
Aug 03, 2016 at 10:15 AM

I don’t know if it’s because I was named after a field of flowers or if it’s just by chance, but I’ve always been enchanted by plants, and this was another reason why I so enjoyed writing The Mystic Cookbook  which explores the remarkable link between nourishment and spiritual awakening. 

In addition to making my backyard more lush and beautiful, my garden has taught me a lot about life. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned.   

1) Bigger Is Not Always Better

My grandfather had an amazing vegetable garden. As a little girl, I would follow him from row to row. He taught me how to plant corn so it would pollinate properly and he showed me how to water fruit trees at what’s called the “drip line,” which is where the outermost branches reach. But, I also learned to revile large squash. Whenever he would find an overripe zucchini, as though affronted by its mere existence, he would rip it from the vine and slam-dunk it into the compost bin. He called them “footballs.” When I’d wanted to rescue one, he told me it wouldn’t be good for eating. It would be stringy and full of seeds. 

It’s easy to fall into the belief that bigger is better. Many of us yearn for a bigger home or a bigger paycheck. Or, perhaps you’ve caught yourself thinking…If only I had more friends, more support, more money, more creativity, then I’d be happy or then I’d be able to fulfill my purpose. The truth is…sometimes big is great, but bigger is not always better. Often, like my grandfather’s zucchini, small can be the most succulent. Would you rather have heaps of acquaintances or a select group of supportive and loving friends who accept you just as you are? Would you rather have piles of clothes that squeeze you in all the wrong places, or a handful of outfits that flatter your body and make you feel like Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s? 

2) Diversity Is Important

Having diversity in plants and beneficial insects create a healthy and vibrant garden, while monoculture depletes the soil and makes plants vulnerable to disease and pests. The same can be true for us. If we were all the same, there would be less innovation, less inspiration, and less freedom. However, I didn’t always know this. I spent a lot of my youth trying to be like everyone else. Now that I embrace my individuality I’m so much happier and my friendships are more real. When you are yourself, you populate the world with your own unique sense of humor, creativity, and beauty. Just as diversity in a garden creates stronger, healthier, and more viable plants, you also create a happier and more interesting life when you release the need to fit in and instead dance to the beat of your own drum. 

3) You Reap What You Sow

When you plant radish seeds, radishes grow. When you plant cucumber seeds, cucumbers grow. When you plant lettuce seeds, lettuce grows. Okay, you get the idea. It’s the same in life. When you treat people with kindness, they respond with kindness. When you look for beauty, you begin to see beauty wherever you go. When you feel abundant, regardless of what’s in your bank account, you live a more abundant life. Whatever you put out into the world is what’s reflected back at you. 

4) From A Tiny Acorn Mighty Oaks Will Grow

Is there something you want to pursue but think you can’t because you don’t have the right degrees, education, or experience? Did you give up before starting because you were sure you wouldn’t succeed? Have you quit a new endeavor simply because you didn’t excel right away? These types of beliefs can be very limiting. However, all we have to do is look out the window to see the myriad of large trees that each started as a tiny seed to know that greatness can come from the smallest, most humble origins.  

One single seed holds the possibility of hundreds, perhaps even thousands of apples. Start small. You never know where the next step will lead you. Perhaps one day your own metaphoric tree will be brimming with apples. 

5) Growth Doesn’t Happen All At Once

Gardening has taught me patience. One summer when I was about ten years old, my grandfather planted an orange tree in his garden. He said it would take about five years until it bore fruit. I couldn’t imagine waiting five long years before I could taste the sweet fruit. It seemed like such an interminably long time. Last autumn, however, when I was visiting my grandmother (my grandfather is no longer with us), I looked at that tree and I couldn’t believe how big it had grown. It was no longer the tiny sapling I remembered from my childhood. Those first few years before the tree bore fruit inched along, but bit-by-bit the tree grew taller, wider, and stronger, and one day it began to produce beautiful oranges. 

Do you get cranky when you don’t see results right away? Have you ever wanted to give up when your butt didn’t appear firmer immediately after joining the gym? Or, have you ever felt disappointed that you didn’t feel relaxed after attempting meditation for the first time? Just like the orange tree in my grandpa’s garden, growth doesn’t happen all at once. It’s a steady process. One day, however, you’ll look back, and you’ll be amazed to see how far you’ve come.  

6) Dormancy Is An Essential Part Of Life
Are you exhausted? Overworked? Do you take time for yourself? Do you put the needs of others (your spouse, your boss, your children, your parents) above your own? Many plants go dormant in the winter. Every autumn the fruit trees in my garden drop their leaves and store energy. This process protects them from freezing temperatures. When the days begin to grow longer and the sun is once again high in the sky, they come out of dormancy and once again bear beautiful fruit. Although it may seem counterproductive to “waste” time in this manner, dormancy is a necessary part of the cycle of life for these trees. How would your life be different if you took time to be dormant?

Most of us are running ourselves ragged at such a frenetic pace that we forget to nurture ourselves. It’s important to take time to renew and replenish. Making time for yourself and pulling inward is not selfish. It’s essential. If you could carve out 20 minutes or an hour a day just for yourself, what would you do? 


About Author
Meadow  Linn
Meadow Linn, the co-author of Quest and The Mystic Cookbook, received her bachelor’s degree from Williams College and her master’s degree in French Cultural Studies from Columbia University. She has a popular column in a Seattle newspap Continue reading