Sowing warmth

There was a road closure on the way to work, so, to avoid the build-up of traffic, I took to the back streets, wending my way through a residential area and passing the house in which we had first lived when we moved south. To let oncoming cars pass, I pulled to one side, almost outside our old home, and was able to see what had become of my garden.

It had been a blank canvas when we had moved in, with nothing but grass and a bedraggled jasmine, struggling to survive in the concrete near the door. With little money, but lots of ideas, we had set about making a family garden. At the back of the house, surrounded by high walls and fences, we made a little wonderland for the boys.

A small pond, just big enough to attract a bit of wildlife, was lined with sheeting supplied by an undertaker friend. He also brought us a couple of sheets of wood, with an innocent suggestion that we ask no questions. These we turned into a wishing well filled with flowers, making shingles for its roof from a scrap of old roofing felt we found in the shed. Disposable plastic tubs were painted to make wall planters. Tin snips made a flock of painted butterflies up the side of the house and we added a waterwheel to the pond. Strange beings looked out from flowerbeds filled with the seeds, cuttings and wild herbs I collected. It didn’t take long before it was ablaze with life.

The front garden, though not the kind of place where you would spend much time, could be seen through the sitting room window and sloped upwards, giving a good view of the bare grass. I dug borders, planted as many cuttings as I could acquire. While they rooted and grew, I threw in seeds to add colour, and within a few months, the garden looked respectable.

While planting the back garden had been a case of filling space with whatever I could acquire, the front was planned with due regard for eventual height, spread, colour and flowering season, mixing in as many evergreens as I could with summer flowering shrubs and plants, so that it would be attractive all year round.

I have often wondered what became of our little wonderland. I can’t imagine anyone else would have enjoyed it the same as we did, when we had all been involved in its creation. The front garden, though, I have seen a few times over the years. At one point, it was an overgrown jungle. Then someone moved in who took care of it and it began to bloom again.

Today I had just enough time to see that what was left of my winter planting had worked and was still offering scented blooms, colour and texture, even on a cold January day. Many of the plants I had acquired were unlabelled mysteries. Unless I could recognise shoot, bark or leaf, I just planted things and tended them. The handfuls of seed fell where they would and grew how they chose. But the known shrubs had done as I had hoped… even though it is more than twenty years since I planted those first little cuttings.

I couldn’t help thinking, as I drove away after that brief glimpse, how good an analogy a garden can be for aspects of our own lives. I am far from the first to come to that conclusion: the parable of the Sower is well known. We never know if, or how, what we ‘plant’ will grow.

What really struck me, though, was that most of the time, we don’t even realise we are planting ‘seeds’. With every anecdote, every bit of life experience shared, every insight or opinion we offer, every bit of hard-won wisdom we can pass on… even in the lightest of conversations. What seems rather mundane to us, might be exactly what someone needs to hear, even though they may not need or recall it for years to come. When the need does arise, that ‘seed’, unwittingly planted, may just flower and bear fruit.

We may not be around to see it and may never know how our words, deeds and actions affect another’s life. It can be the smallest of things… something we ourselves have not even noticed, from a kind word or a shared smile, that changes a day for someone we don’t even know and may never see again. But it matters. Every time.

30 thoughts on “Sowing warmth

  1. I feel so wealthy to know folks like you, Sue, and Stuart and Steve and all the fantastic people I have met through your posts. It is amazing, and I really related to and totally loved this account of your old home. No matter how simple or impoverished I have been in my living quarters, I, like you, have found things in the land to dig up and plant and enjoy. I remember one day I had to take a day off so i could go rescue a whole bunch of huge Bird of Paradises and some other kinds of plants I cannot remember. The builders of a new building were ripping them out of the ground and tossing them in the garbage bin. I asked it it was ok if I took them, and they said yes, probably glad not to have to do it themselves, and so I returned all day and saved every one of them I could. I was so tired at the end of the day, but so happy to rescue plants which are such a sacred part of our environment. I shared them with everyone I knew would treasure them as I did, and then I planted all the rest of them in my own yard. I lived in a mobile home (I think you call them caravans?) and had a tiny yard, but in that yard, I had every imaginable thing growing. Yes, I can so relate to these things you spoke about. It was watching all sorts of things come alive in my garden, and rescuing more things, from plants to stray animals with no homes to furniture, art and miscellany on throw-away day when the City would allow people to throw things away and then allow people in the neighborhoods to pick it up before the trucks came to pick it up since the City had to pay a service by the pound to pick it up. It was a happy occasion all around, and I have so many wonderful memories from those times. I got a lot of furniture that way, perfectly good things, and I had so much fun turning it into artful living. My favorite find was rocking chairs, and boy, did I ever find a lot of magical ones. So many that I renamed the twice a year occasion “The Celebration of the Rocking Chairs.”

    Besides the occasional cat or dog I rescued, one day a desert tortoise came walking down the road, surely to fall into a storm drain in the road ahead. I rescued him too and he was a much venerated pet of mine who lived to be some 80+ years old (he was old already when I got him). And then there was a “ribbit, ribbit” frog who took up residence in one of my shrubs near my home. He and I would ribbit, ribbit to each other when he heard my car pull in, and I truly loved him. So yes, I can sure relate to the things that made a home your heaven on earth so to speak. I have always done that too with each home I manage to find. I am so happy to remember your stories of your own home. You have been just amazing and I will not easily ever forget your stories of joy created from the smallest of things. Hooray for us always!!!

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  2. Another thought provoking blog – not sure how you do it? This one had me thinking for quite some time. Any chance you could send me the html and I will repost it too??

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  3. Such a beautiful post, Sue. Had me remembering all the gardens I have tended, the plants and trees I have seen grow. Which made me a little sad, wondering if any of them are surviving, or, like me, slowly disappearing back into the ground…

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  4. Such a lovely way to remind us that everything we do,every word, action, thought however momentous or inconsequential it may see at the time has a butterfly effect on us and everything and everyone around us. I wonder what your old back garden looks like now 💜

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