16 Sep Gardens (and relationships) take time!

When we left the city some years ago, we chose a garden with enough space to do pretty much anything we wanted. Our dreams were far in excess of any gardening we’d ever taken on previously. Conversations about plant species sprouted into our repertoire. We’d devour gardening magazines and enjoy sprightly debate about whose idea on any number of planning decisions had most merit.

It was a love affair and the future was plump with promise. In our mind’s eye we could already see the vegetable boxes bursting with crop, lush greenery cascading from garden beds, smooth green lawns with cute little pathways poetically linking it all together. We invested weekends digging, mulching, weeding, planting, and watering. When we needed inspiration or direction, the local nursery was an endless fountain of reassuring solutions.

Following this enterprising and productive flurry came a delicious “honeymoon” period, when everything played out just as we’d dreamed it would be. It felt so wholesome, that meander down to the veggie patch to gather fresh produce for dinner! Produce was abundant and, we assumed, abundance would go on forever.

Then, and inevitably, busy schedules intervened. Weekend planning was punctuated by the need to maintain the garden. And the garden needed more maintaining with the passing of every weekend. We battled with tangled vines just to reach the fruits of our labour. We ripped armloads of weeds only to be promised swift weed regrowth and sore lower backs for our efforts. Pests, birds, wallabies, kangaroos, and even wild deer stole mercilessly: at first, just our food. Over time they returned to steal more: our enthusiasm, resolve, resourcefulness, and finally, our will to care.

There was a chasm of difference between our dreams and the hard and consistent work of making them a lasting reality. And the analogy is obvious, isn’t it? Falling in love and embarking on a robust future together is easy during those early months and years of promise. But how many couples reach the end of the honeymoon phase (and this is inevitable, even if it can take a few years), only to find themselves overwhelmed by the sheer reality of keeping a marriage productive and “disease free” during decades of changing seasons ahead?

Relationships can be the easiest and most effortless thing we’ll ever enjoy. And they will also be the most difficult. Ask anyone in a truly happy long term relationship and you’ll always hear that creating relationships that really thrive takes hard work. It’s a daily process of cultivation, and it’s about committing to that relationship as priority number one. And contrary to what movies may tell us, it’s not the fancy dinner dates or champagnes at sunset that matter most. Rather, it’s our consistent investment of energy and time into the small things: the irritations, misunderstandings, and shortcomings. It’s about tending to them before they grow into big things that become overgrown and unsalvageable. It’s these little “weeds”, so tempting to avoid or ignore, that offer the biggest opportunity for healthy relationship growth.

We don’t live in that home with the garden anymore. We didn’t leave because of the garden, but admittedly, for now we’ve chosen a home with a garden that’s decidedly “easy care”. We buy our veggies from someone else who’s done all that hard work. We bought a pot of basil, but I noticed it yesterday and it’s shrivelled up. I guess we both forgot to water it. But it’s OK, it was just a plant in a pot. It’s all about priorities.