A Garden Lesson

June 4, 2023

It never ceases to amaze me what patient teachers our gardens can be… if we’re paying attention.

The other day I was weeding a bed outside my studio… Three sage plants were barely distinguishable amongst the overgrown weeds.  When I lifted them to clear the underbrush & pine cones, I discovered that each was growing sideways; their main stems were growing literally at right angles instead of straight up, causing many of their leaves to drag on the ground. 

Their configuration instantly brought to memory a misshapen old man I observed over 40 years ago in Seoul, Korea.  As he hobbled down the bustling street, my guide informed me that such a profile was common amongst the poor given the heavy loads they routinely carried on their backs.  Not 5 minutes, later, I saw another man, just as old, gaunt & bent, carrying a full-sized desk on his back that looked at least twice his weight.

Back to my poor sage plants:  As I continued to ponder their curious shape, I suddenly realized the source of their growth pattern: The rosemary bush behind them, full grown & hearty, was blocking their light. 

I’m embarrassed to admit that this compromised light issue has been a pattern in my studio garden.  I’m not an experienced gardener like my gifted husband.  Ever since the space was fenced in over 5 years ago, I’ve planted ground covers, shrubs & flowers based on their beauty, color & variety, not on their ideal light levels.  The tall, dense wall of fir & ocean spray trees on the south side of the garden has routinely compromised light for ceanothus & Spanish lavender plants over the years: they all have ended up leaning ridiculously to the north in search of light.  I’ve been stubborn & I’ve paid the price.  Actually, those poor plants have paid the price. 

Suddenly the idea of contorting in search of light felt like an apt metaphor for people: How compromised we can become, if not physically, then emotionally, psychologically & spiritually, when we’re deprived of light–the light of recognition, of feeling seen, heard & honored.  As with plants, each person has their own nature & deserves to be met with respect for that uniqueness & allowed to flourish in their own ideal environment instead of being manipulated according to our notions of beauty & worth. 

Later that afternoon, I pruned back the rosemary bush to free up light for my long-suffering sage plants.  I’ll be transplanting the Spanish lavender as soon as my husband gives me a thumbs up.  My garden has been teaching me important lessons, & slowly but surely, I’m “seeing the light” & bending in submission. 

Have you ever experienced this kind of dynamic between your plants & your ego?  I’d be grateful to hear. 

Thanx for listening,



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