For Mother’s Day this year, one of my children gave me a beautiful assortment of interesting garden seeds. I was especially excited about the tri-color bush beans and planted them promptly in one of my backyard beds. I also squeezed in radishes along the edges. I noticed a few Swiss chard plants coming up and left them as well. And I also noticed a whole lot of tiny marigold plants sprouting up from the fallen seeds of last season. I love marigolds and affectionally call my backyard Marigold Farm. Besides, they help to keep insects and rabbits away from the vegetable plants. So I let everything grow up together for a while, then happily left town for a vacation, imagining the healthy rows of sturdy bean plants I would find when I returned.
What I returned to was not so much rows of beans as a virtual jungle. The radishes had sprouted three feet tall and gone to seed. Raspberry bushes behind the bed hovered over the plants, shading them from the needed sunlight. Tiny cheerful marigolds burgeoned into huge burning bushes of yellow, orange, and red. Gorgeous, for sure. But what about my tri-color bush beans? The plants had not so much bushed as spindled, overshadowed and choked by all the other things growing around them. They produced a few nice beans but the plants looked exhausted and ready to fade into fall a month too soon. A few had even died, overwhelmed by the competition for soil, light, water, and air.
Clearly, I had decisions to make. Tri-color beans or marigolds? Pulling out the gawky radish plants was relatively painless. I left just two which had exceptionally fertile-looking seed pods and blossoms of purple. The couple of Swiss chard plants weren’t really a problem. But those marigolds! They were so pretty, healthy and full, rich with bright color and feathery greenery. And this is Marigold Farm after all. And marigolds keep insects and rabbits away from the vegetable plants. But there must have been 50 of them making merry in my bean plot, and there was nowhere else to transplant them (believe me, I looked). With no little discomfort, I slowly began to pull them out. First the obvious ones, pressed tight against the bean plants. Then the extras in the rows. It hurt a little every time I said good bye to another of my golden beauties. Letting go is hard. Even letting go of a few plants was a little bit hard.
I got to thinking about the bigger things we have to let go of sometimes: possessions, positions, relationships, youth, our cherished hopes and dreams for the future. Coming to terms with life as it is, rather than hanging on to what it used to be or what we hope it will be, is a challenge for every one of us at one point or another. Divorce is a particularly tough one, I think, because we lose not just the marriage relationship but our feeling of a having a whole and intact family. We also lose all the hopes and dreams and bright expectations we carried with us when we entered the marriage. We know now that the future will never be exactly as we had imagined it. Yet, if we hold on to what is no longer ours, what is no longer healthy and lifegiving, we start to spindle and wither, just like my bean plants. We can’t grow if we don’t let go.
I’m going to say good bye to that batch of marigolds, letting them become compost to enrich my next gardening adventure. And I’m going to trim back those raspberries, too. I know my beans will be the better for it, even if it hurts. –MC