When I first had a patch of ground to plant, I had visions of lush gardens, layered with flowers and fruits and majestic trees and with cute little bunnies who never ate the tulips. That first year, I planted a few trees, and quickly turned over a patch of grass to plant some fast-blooming annual flowers.
The flowers were immediately stunning. I was so proud of the giant blooms and the quick results of my labor, and all of my visitors complimented the new garden. The trees, on the other hand, were just sad-looking sticks, with every new leaf nightly eaten by deer. And I had not consulted any local experts, so half of my choices were ill-suited for this place, and had no chance of survival. My visitors laughed and the pitiful sticks, and I rolled my eyes and turned back to the showy annuals.
The following season, the grass and dandelions started to repopulate the flower patch, and I did not have so much time to tend it. The new flowers were still pretty, but without constant investment, they were much less impressive, and subject to luck, as a late frost took out half of the plants. Luckily I’d started listening to people who knew more about this place and this soil and this climate, who helped me to learn about better choices for both the planting and the tending.
Fast forward a few more years, and the little stick-trees are stunning, branching way over my head with blooms and fruits and beauty. A middle layer of perennials and shrubs has fully formed, gorgeous steady plants that return each season. And because the rest of the garden is healthy, the annuals are easy, a small simple accent, easy to tend.
Friends, for so long we have treated our most serious needs, both individual and collective, as if they are annual flowers, as if quick thoughtless investment should produce stunning results. It’s like a crash diet, or cramming for a test – for a moment we might succeed, but there’s no lasting foundation. To maintain any results, every day will require more crashing, more cramming.
We need to tend the soil.
We need to listen to those who know.
We need to plant every layer with care.
Not just this season, but forevermore.