Although I am in love with everything Spring, there is one day each year that sets my soul on fire. It happens after the last frost has tried to delay the season yet again, when the thick Southern pollen has stopped coating cars and driveways, and when the whole world is a bright Granny Smith apple green with freshness.
It’s the day I head to nursery, spend an hour roaming up and down aisles, and fill the truck bed with the perfect blend of flowers.
Now, I am not a gardener. I don’t till the soil and plant rows of vegetable seeds. I don’t reap a harvest of fresh fruits and tend tediously to a growing bounty.
My garden of choice is potted flowers. Each spring I will fill the ceramic pots to brimming with lively, vibrant and beautiful flowers. The pots are then lovingly spaced around the patio and deck, bringing a splash of sass to our outdoor living spaces.
My pairings tend to be random (as with many things in my life). Aside from being mindful of sun vs. shade, I mix and match at will, captivated by the colors, heights, textures of the plants.
And at the end of this glorious day of digging in the dirt, I have a dozen or so large pots, ready to spend the spring, summer and early fall with us. Every summer I lovingly tend to the pots, watching the flowers grow and grow and grow.
Until they don’t grow any more.
Every summer, my magnificent flowers fade away far too soon, unable to thrive any longer. Year after year they leave me in late July, when really they should be hanging around until September.
It took me a few seasons to realize what what going on. In my over-exuberance to have immediately full and dazzling pots, I overplanted.
I didn’t leave room to grow.
I was always in such a hurry to have the full beauty available immediately, thus cramming multiple flowers together, that I actually ended up killing my flowers. In my need for the allure NOW I didn’t allow space for natural growth.
I commited plantacide.
I gave them light and water and nutrient-dense soil. I moved them around so they’d get different degrees of light. I cared for them daily.
But I didn’t leave room for them to grow.
And so this year, I was more mindful on my magic day of planting. I bought fewer flowers. I dug more deeply into the pots. And I planted fewer flowers together so they’d have the space they need to flourish.
I do this in other areas of my life, as well. In my fervor for Life, in my desire to say a big fat “Hell Yes!” to any opportunity for adventure that comes my way, in my desire to do my work to my absolute fullest and deepest level, I overpack my schedule. Just like the flowerpots, I try to cram one more marigold, one more petunia of an activity into the day-planner. I’ll lean back, look at the chocked-full calendar with a satisfied sigh, and think, “Look at me. I’ve got it going on!”
And then the living of that jam-packed schedule comes into play, and without fail a sense of constrictiveness creeps in. Day after day of “too much” slowly strangles the joy out of the tasks and activities I was so proud to schedule.
I forgot to leave room to grow.
Reading. Writing. Coffee in the gazebo. A walk by the pond with the dogs. An extra yoga practice. These are the things that keep my soul fresh, alive, nourished. They feed my soul in the way the extra space in the pot allows for stretching. growth and the sense of expansiveness that makes it all so worth it.
That space to grow is essential to Life. Not just to a higher quality of life, but to Life itself. If you doubt this, ask my flowerpots of the past. It might be a job, a relationship, or even our own habits that box us in, but when we neglect the time and spaciousness to just be, we cannot avoid the sense of smothering that accompanies it.
Just like the flowers, some of us thrive in close communion with others, growing roots that spread quick and wide. Others of us thrive best when planted with ample capacity to grow deeply, to meander into the dark, rich soil of life.
This I know, about both flowers and people. When we rush to cram our lives with busy beauty right now, we end up short-changing our true joy in Life. We all need time, room and energy to grow. Time for our souls to meander, to go a different direction, to cover new ground with the delight of exploration.
May we each make the space in which we can grow to our absolute beauty.