Monday, August 15, 2016

Finding Grace in Surrender

I am not someone who gives up easily, especially if the cause is something near and dear to my heart, like gardening. However, I have lived enough years on this earth to know when I am beaten. I bow to a very powerful tag team: men and construction.

Since mid-April the house where I rent a ground floor/basement combo apartment has been under construction. The owners are turning the one-family upstairs into two apartments. The work is being done in phases as time allows and people are available. It reminds me of that delightful book that was later made into an equally delightful mini series on PBS called: "A Year In Provence," by Peter Mayle. It tells the story of an English couple who decide to chuck it all and move to the beautiful region of Provence, in France, where they will renovate an old farmhouse and live in peace and simplicity. However, the local tradespeople have a different work ethic than the industrious Brits, and when they say they will be back on Tuesday, it does not necessarily mean next Tuesday. It could mean a Tuesday three months from then. The book documents the couple's hilarious education into simple, rural living and how they managed to survive it all and keep their sanity intact. I feel like I am living in Provence.

When it came time to clean up the garden in the spring and prepare the beds, I was surrounded by trucks, dumpsters and piles of ripped out walls, cement, nails and other debris. The tulips were smashed under piles of broken concrete. At every turn there were construction trucks, plumbers, electricians, piles of lumber, and pieces of wall board blowing in the wind. There was nowhere to set up my containers and my mini green house. Then they kept turning off my Internet, my water and my power. I finally managed to get a few containers out there only through the hard work of my 9 year old granddaughter who may look skinny but who had no problem carrying hugs sacks of soil down the driveway where we assumed it would be safe to put the containers. The lettuce and basil have roused to the occasion, although Rosemary seems to be afraid to poke her head through more than an inch and the spinach is anemic. They were planted late and not in the optimal spot for the best growth. Alas, the biggest casualty has been the tomatoes. After painstakingly hauling water from the house to water them - they kept shutting off the hose - they succumbed to several days of torrential downpours that backed up a river in their pots which plugged the drainage holes and would not let the water out fast enough. The entire bottom of the plants are gone, and only about 6 grape tomatoes remain to turn red, if ever. As for the weeding, only a machete and a strong back could get through what should have been tackled ages ago with only minimum upkeep needed afterward. It was when I walked out and saw my drowned tomatoes that I threw up my hands, waved the white flag and told the Universe, "I Surrender! I Give up! It's all yours!"

Sometimes we just have to accept the idea that not every plan is going to work out the way we'd like, and we cannot control every event in our lives. Last year I came to accept the fact that, as excited as I was to finally be able to live somewhere that had an actual garden to play in, some physical setbacks were not going to permit me to go back to the way I used to garden before the injury to my hip. That was okay. I found ways to still enjoy gardening, still have a hand in creation, and still take pride in the harvest. This year, no way. So what do you do with those lemons you've been handed? You make lemonade and use the seeds to plant something new, like patience, gratitude and acceptance. It won't be the last time I'll ever get to garden, and it also won't be the last time that I won't be in control of how something works out. Let go and let God, as they say in the recovery movement.

So where is the grace in surrendering? It was there when I looked out among the weeds one day to see wild roses growing where I'd never seen them growing before. It was there when I saw wild morning glories wrapping themselves around the lambs ear and boasting beautiful white flowers at sunrise. It was there when the wild strawberries, unimpeded by anything I might have planted there, took over, much to the delight of my grandkids who went out to pick them and came back laughing with red fingers and mouths. It was there when the local critters came out early in the morning to eat the clover and dandelions. Grace. Grace in what Mother Nature has planned and executed, beauty in the randomness and gratitude in the bounty. Grace.

And so it is.