Ever since I made the very hard decision to move from my happy little country home and garden some years ago to an apartment in town, I have been challenging myself every spring and summer to find ways to bring the joys of gardening with me even it it meant I had to totally re-educate myself about what was possible. Since I had already come to gardening late in life, pushing 50 when I picked up my first spade and packet of seeds, it would have been easy for me to just let it all go, hang a few pots of petunias around and not tax my little grey brain anymore. But when we stop challenging ourselves, we stop growing and growing is an essential part of living. Life Coach Tony Robbins tells us that we all have a need to make progress in our lives and if we don’t grow, we stagnate and die.
It’s so easy at this stage of our lives to tell ourselves that we are too old to learn anything new and, for heavens sake, why should we? Haven’t we learned enough? We made it through all of the grades in school and all of the stages of life, and it’s kick-back time, right? Wrong. It’s okay to kick-back once in a while, and in fact learning and promoting self-care is one of the most important challenges we can pick up and run with as we move forward. Real challenge keeps us alive, gives us a reason to get out of bed in the morning and adds excitement to our lives.
This summer I have taken on two challenges although one was not really a choice but was dropped in my lap. The first challenge was to find a way to grow salad fixings on my porch garden and the second was to be able to tend that little porch garden while learning how to walk again after surgery to repair a fractured leg. The garden variety challenge involved finding certain types of tomato plants that could grow inside a screened-in area. After trial and error (and lots of advice from other container gardeners online) I found one that grows cherry tomatoes galore in a hanging pot without the need to have it on the other side of the screen for pollination purposes. I can now boast that my little porch garden provides me with tomatoes grown in pots, lettuce grown in window boxes, basil, parsley, other assorted herbs and, of course, flowers.
The other challenge was a lot harder. My great grandson, Xavier, is starting to walk at almost 10 months. To watch the two of us it is amazing that humans ever learn to walk at all. One of us has no preconceptions about how to get the job done. He just plunges ahead and shakes off the inevitable tumbles when they happen. The other refuses to let a 10 month old beat her at a game she already won once before … she just needs to move past the pain and the fear and put one foot in front of the other. So I challenged myself that by the end of June I would be able to walk out into my garden room and pluck my very own tomatoes off my very own plant all by myself sans a walker or other equipment. As I write this,it is June 30 and a bowl of beautiful little red gems sits at my elbow on the table collected by yours truly with no help from anyone except a little black and gold cat that has been my bodyguard since I arrived back home from the hospital.
If you are facing a challenge, whether it is physical, emotional, financial or any other kind, pick it up and take it on. After all, we didn’t make it this far by sitting on our butts and coasting. Challenge is growth, and growth is what living is all about. And if you are lucky enough not to have any unwanted challenges at the moment, challenge yourself to learn something new, or to take something you already know in a new direction. My new challenge for next summer? Pole beans on an indoor trellis! I dare anyone to say I can’t.