By the seeds
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson
Spring is a time of anticipation and reward, but it also can be a time of impatience, when the weather is moody and unpredictable, and some of our plants don’t bloom as quickly as we wish they would. Spring is the perfect time to reflect on the truth of Stevenson’s words about the wisdom of focusing on planting instead of harvest.
All of us love to see quick results and successful finishes, but most of life just doesn’t go that way. Things take time, and we are surrounded by media images that speed things up to the point that we may buy into an unreasonable degree of expectation about how long we should be kept waiting.
Moreover, results depend on many factors that are beyond our control. Weather, soil condition, pests and the genetics of the seeds themselves all influence our harvest. One of the first things gardening taught me is the realization that a large percentage of what I plant will not turn out the way I hope it will. And, except for our years on the central coast of California, it has been rare for me to succeed at growing anything from seeds.
The photo above is a favorite exception. Jena, who has been with us here at this blog for over two years now, has been especially thoughtful to send me little treats from her travels and from her fascinating home state of Alaska. Back in mid-2014 she sent me some seeds for Alaskan plants, including the state flower, the Forget-Me-Not. I promptly planted some and was surprised and excited when they quickly became healthy seedlings.
Because I feared the young plants would freeze, I brought some indoors in pots during the fall, and left three planted outdoors. As they lay under several inches of snow two months ago, I doubted they would survive. But when the snow melted away, they sprung back to life almost immediately. In fact, they are doing much better than the ones I kept indoors and transplanted back outside a couple of weeks ago. It reminded me of our discussion here about the benefits of snow for insulation and fertilization.
On a recent morning when I had returned from Atlanta the previous evening, I went out on the patio to check on them. Wow! They had doubled in size and were covered with lovely blue flowers. It made my day to see them, knowing they grew from tiny seeds that had been sent my way across many miles, literally from one corner of North America to the other. What a fun surprise!
I don’t remember much about the day I planted those seeds. It was likely a typical day, one in which I got a few things accomplished, but felt there was much more still to be done. If I could go back in time several months and show myself the photo above, I might have gotten quite a boost out of knowing that some of what was accomplished that day wasn’t immediately obvious.
Likewise, the day Jena bought those seeds to send to me, she could not have known how, several months later, there would be a rainy spring morning when the sight of their rapid growth would provide me with a burst of joyful surprise on a day when I was in need of cheer. Though she would not be present to see the harvest of her actions, she focused on the seeds, and I hope she felt at least a small sense of accomplishment on the day she packed them along with the other surprises in the package she sent my way.
When I was prowling around for a link to post for Stevenson with his quote, I discovered something I had forgotten; he died at the age of 44, which seems tragically young to me. He never lived to see the continuing harvest of joy that his words have brought to people of all ages for over a century. I am comforted to think that perhaps he realized his life’s work consisted of planting seeds in faith that they would bear a harvest beyond what he might have dared to imagine. I hope we can all be inspired to remember his vision and do likewise.