I’ve been watching the garden die a slow death. The plants are in a state of constant stress from the heat and unrelenting drought. I was just outside looking at my purple beans, a climbing or pole bean with beautiful reddish-purple blossoms. It’s been covered with blossoms all summer and the bees love it. Bean pollen dies if it gets too hot, and it has been too hot. There aren’t any beans this summer.
Last summer, my tomato plants produced about 100 lbs of tomatoes each week. That’s a lot of tomatoes and I’d hoped to sell some of my produce this summer. Tomato pollen dies at about 96 degrees, we’ve been over 100 for weeks and weeks. This summer I gather a small handful of tomatoes weekly; weakly. It’s been such a hard year to garden.
As I walk around the property, I mostly walk on dead grasses and powdery dirt. It looks like a winter landscape, except it’s August. I find I am wishing for winter.
There are times in life when things get difficult and we are called to put every ounce of energy we have into making things better. If this were one of those times, I’d be pouring compost on the plants and watering several times a day. If this were an important relationship that was struggling, I’d be focusing my efforts on communicating, and getting therapy, and spending time reflecting on what I could improve.
There are also times in life when what is healthy is to say, “Enough.” That could be, “I’ve done enough,” or, “I’ve had enough,” or, “Enough already!” With the drought, I’m now concentrating my watering efforts on keeping the foundation of the house watered, and probably not doing that enough. I catch myself thinking, as I water the struggling tomato plants, “What if it doesn’t rain? I’m going to wish I had this water to drink instead of having spent it on struggling tomato plants.” Sometimes relationships chip away at the soul, making us less of ourselves rather than nudging us to be more fully ourselves.
Sometimes, you’ve given all you have to give and it is time to stop.
It’s hard to let go of the garden. I started most of these plants from seeds in January. I watered them by hand, and carried the flats of seedlings out into the springtime sunlight and tucked them back in their warm storeroom every night. It’s challenging to let go of things that hold a lot of emotional energy for us whether it’s a tomato plant, an argument with a spouse, a failure at work. It can be really tough to stop trying to make something happen, or to let go of our fantasy of how things should be, or could be if only they’d change.
Here’s a little wisdom from the Buddhist tradition:
Two Buddhist monks were walking along a path when they came to a shallow, muddy river. A woman in a beautiful dress waited there, not wishing to cross for fear of ruining her beautiful dress. One of the monks lifted her onto his shoulders – something that he was absolutely not supposed to do – and carried her to the other side, where he set her down (dress intact) and proceeded along the path with his fellow monk. After a few hours, the second monk, unable to continue keeping quiet about what he understood as a violation of the code by which they lived, asked his companion, “Why did you pick that woman up and carry her across the river?” The first monk replied, “Are you still carrying her? I put her down hours ago.”
What are you holding onto? What things are you trying to change or control? Is it time to let go?