On returning to my home from a walk the other day, for the first time in a long while, I truly noticed my lone flowerbed as I approached my front door. How many days had I walked on by it? I couldn’t recall the last time I had actually looked at it. Today, it grabbed my attention.
I had intended to fill it with mulch, flowers, and shrubs earlier this year. But, the threat of disease and general bedlam we have collectively been experiencing was enough to keep me away from the shops. So, it lay mostly untouched. I had half-heartedly thrown out two packets of zinnia seeds a while back, hoping that they might pop up on their own and fill the bed without conscious effort from me.
A whole two plants had successfully made it to flowering. That was all.
Months of neglect showed in the tangled mess of grasses, ivy, and weeds of all sizes choking out the zinnias. As I looked at the bed, would-be gardener’s regret welling up from within, I began to consider something else.
The stress of the times has worn on all of us. Though I consider myself to be usually quite genial and even-tempered, I am not immune. My fuse has been shorter this year, and I noticed as it dragged on, more and more things would annoy me, bother me, or flat out trigger my anger.
But why? Most subjects of my ire were comparatively small matters that would not normally upset me so. It was then, as I stared at the sad state of my flower bed, a thought came to me. My inner garden had also not been properly maintained.
The weeds are taking over, and I had let them.
Now more than ever, I needed to take stock of the state of my own mind. I needed to pull the weeds and re-cultivate the good in my perspective. I had allowed myself to be swept up in the chaos and left some awful weeds to grow as they wanted: unchecked malaise, noxious anxiety, choking anger. How much space in my head had this negativity greedily taken up when I wasn’t looking? How similarly must everyone else feel right now?
I reached down and wrenched some ivy away from where it was invading the siding of my house before going inside.
I might not clean out the actual flowerbed anytime soon, but my mind definitely needed some care. Times are hard (to put it obscenely mildly), and emotions high, so it’s easy to unconsciously get swept up in it all. And surely, everyone else in my life is also feeling pain and anguish. Grouchiness and pessimism, in all their manifestations, are easy for us; empathy and optimism are sometimes quite difficult. But if there’s anything the world needs more of these days, I believe compassion, patience, and understanding perfectly fit the bill. If I can just weed my own flowerbed, then my hands become free to help others do the same. All it took to remember this was a messy, unkempt flowerbed.
I went back outside to look at the zinnias. They stood bright and tall amongst the dandelions and brambles. They were, after all, the survivors of seeds sown with hope, and made it against the odds. I might not have a full flowerbed of blooms this year, but those two tiny seeds germinated into plants of perception.
That day, as I untangled my two zinnias from the surrounding grass, I brought back my awareness to my moods and thoughts. What kind of inner world then, do I want to create? What seeds shall I allow to take root in my heart and affect my life tomorrow? I must choose my next plantings carefully and deliberately so I can care for myself and extend that goodwill to others around me.
Thanks to two tough flowers, I now see that I have a lot of gardening to do indeed. And for this lesson from my front yard, I am certainly quite grateful.