The second most asked question in my life recently has been, “How do you manage to stay so upbeat?” An interesting balance to the most asked question which is, “So, how are you doing – really?” Financial turmoil publicly played out via this blog inspires both queries. The answers are public too, but are easy to overlook because they are simple. Why make hope hard to find? I’ve learned to find it even in a potato.
I am not much of a gardener. Actually, I think I could do reasonably well with plants, but deer, birds, bunnies, slugs, snails, and caterpillars work hard at enjoying every bit of hope I plant. Every year I feed them seeds, hoping they’ll miss enough to let me harvest a crop. Last year’s harvest? One apple – out of three trees. No figs on the fig tree. None of the pea seeds, bean seeds, corn seeds, or squash seeds produced a meal for me; but something obviously had a feast. And yet I continue to try.
I’m not totally without skill. Evidently I am reasonably good at growing herbs.
Bay, sage, and rosemary are doing so well that I have to harvest them just to keep the plants from occupying the driveway.
If any of the vegetables ever produce a crop they’ll be well-herbed.
Of course, one of the reasons my garden suffers is because I am so busy working on six different projects. Each project contributes to my monthly revenue, possibly producing a total that is enough to maintain a mortgage. (I still haven’t heard back from the mortgage company about their choice between offering a modification or deciding to proceed with foreclosure.) The garden may be neglected but the lawn must be mowed. Today’s yardwork made me laugh and gave me another dose of hope.
Thanks to a dear friend who lent me an electric lawnmower I am able to keep up with the growth spurt that is a Western Washington lawn after a wet spring and unseasonably warm days. My person-powered reel mower would be overwhelmed, or at least its energy source would be. While I was mowing the perimeter to provide me with maneuvering room I saw something else in a pile of wooden slats that I keep around for my poor attempts at fencing out the bunnies. A potato plant was growing from under where the slats were stored.
I planted those potatoes last year, watched the slugs devour the leaves, and accepted the probable death of the plants. Evidently I was wrong. Good.
Something similar happened last year. Potatoes planted the year before sprouted where I hadn’t expected. (Recognizing Unexpected Positives) I considered it a fluke, and celebrated anyway. The slugs got them too, so I was thankful for the dose of hope, and resigned myself to buying potatoes.
As I mowed past that previous stretch of garden I slowed long enough to see potatoes growing amidst the weeds.
I think they do better when I don’t try to help them.
Silly things like volunteered potatoes are easy to overlook, but their success and perseverance are reminders of what is happening in other parts of my life.
Those six projects I mentioned above are doing much better than some potatoes, but there are some similarities. The best ones are building from something that was already there but needed some help; just like the potatoes that weren’t grown from seed but from grocery-bought potatoes that sprouted after being in the pantry too long. Most of those projects can trace back their beginnings to events that may have seemed inconsequential at the time. As with any project, and particularly with root vegetables, it can be hard to see the true progress being made; especially the progress that may persist even when the more visible parts are in distress.
Stacking my bills against my bank balance is scary; especially since income taxes eliminated most of my financial cushion. That’s one time when hope fades. But then I think about the work and casual overtures I’ve made throughout my adult life. There are far more than enough possibilities for more unexpected positives. One very nice possibility is at the decision-maker stage, and is the result of following a friend’s advice about creating an account on a web site years ago that I subsequently forgot about. Another intriguing possibility is in my larger neighborhood and is based on demonstrating trust, discretion, and soft counseling even further back.
Hope is necessary because the need remains. But I’m not expecting hope to do all the work. I’m doing a few things to welcome the opportunities it produces, and I’m learning the value of planting things even if they may not have the best chance of succeeding. Allow me to plant the idea that you may find value in me as a consultant or program manager, or find that you’ll enjoy my books and photos.
If potatoes with eyes can see themselves through for years and a bit of help from me, maybe they’ll do better when I give them a better place to grow.
Welcome to my kitchen garden. Scraps that others would throw out, or that I would usually compost, are now planted in big pots outside my kitchen. If there’s any hint of green on a potato eye, or a sprouting onion, or a resurgent carrot, I plant enough to give it hope and eat the rest (of course.) The slugs and snails continue their assaults, but with a bit more protection the plants seem to be doing much better than usual. Everything in the kitchen garden is a root vegetable which means I don’t know what’s really growing down there, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll be harvesting something that is sustaining, satisfying, and really quite simple. All it takes is a bit of work and a bit of hope.