Last week I wrote about the first six of twelve lessons from my garden. Originally I intended to post all twelve at once, but it ended up longer than expected. Today, I present to you lessons seven through twelve.

7. It’s easy to lose sight of what you really love

Many years ago, some neighbors down the street shared some perennials from their garden. One thing they gave me was a single Jack-in-the-pulpit plant. I had heard of them before but had never actually seen one live and in, er.. person. I was absolutely charmed.

I hadn’t done any research before planting, so I didn’t know that this little pulpiteer was a woodland plant. It lived and bloomed year to year, giving me only one clue that it wanted more shade. There was only ever one plant.

Solitary Jack soldiered on, standing solemnly among the plants which grew large and plentiful enough to hide it if I didn’t move their leaves. Looking back, this is probably what allowed it to survive.

I mentioned in part one of this post that we were removing the vigorous (invasive) day lily. Behind one stand of day lily lived Jack. As I moved from the edge of the driveway toward the rest of the yard, I discovered not one, but THREE beautiful blooms.

You might already have something that can solve a problem

Last summer, my older son did a lot of heavy work for us in the yard. One of those things was removing saplings that had grown up under and through our blue spruces.

Prior to this, I had no idea how many saplings there were and how much space would be left there when he was done. Nature really does abhor a vacuum, more unwanted plants (weeds?) have sprung up since then.

I’ve been trying to decide what plants to buy to fill that space instead of leaving it up to whatever seeds land there. If you have ever done landscaping in a yard, you will be aware that it can be a very expensive prospect — thus, it was free real estate for random seeds — you all know the meme.

In my new-found abundance of Jack-in-the-pulpits (Jacks-in the pulpit? Jacks-in-the-pulpits?), I had the solution to this problem. Not only did I have the three them blossoming, but there were also found a large number of seedlings. The seedlings are happy in their new home, my wallet and I are happy we didn’t need to buy anything.

When you begin to clear the clutter, you will find that you have plenty to share

On the topic of not wanting to spend a lot of money on new plants, I have been wanting to go to our local plant swap for years now. I haven’t been before this year because I didn’t think I had anything to contribute.

In the process of scattering vegetable plants throughout the limited sunny areas of the yard, I discovered that a great number of perennials needed some TLC. I didn’t have a lot of time to gather them before the day of the swap. Even so, I was able to take seven woolly lambs ear plants and five pots of chives.

I brought home two ferns in exchange, which might not sound like a great deal. In reality, my favorite part of the entire plant swap was watching my little baby plants find new homes with happy, excited people.

Happy memories show up in many ways

In an earlier post about vacations, I mentioned that photographs of pleasant events help prolong the happiness you get from them by turning your attention to them once again. Your mind can’t tell the difference between a current experience and one that’s remembered or imagined vividly. By remembering happy times, you are, in a sense, actually reliving them.

I am a big fan of looking back at pictures and re-experiencing the joy from those days, but photographs are only one avenue to memories.

When we first moved to this home, nearly twelve years ago, we had the most lovely neighbor across the street. Sara, who moved away a few years ago due to declining health, had the quirky habit of wildly decorating her yard for every holiday (yes, even Valentine’s day, February fourteenth, in the frozen north).

Sarahwas one of the most energetic people I have ever know. In addition to yard decorating and many other activities, she was an active volunteer for the VFW. The first spring we lived here, Sara was selling roses as a VFW, and we bought a few. When I was clearing out the overgrowth in my yard, I freed one of these amazingly hardy roses.

As I looked down on this small plant, I was flooded with memories.

Morning talks in the street while she was getting her paper and I was returning from walking the kids to the bus stop; exuberant decorations for holiday after holiday; coffee in her living room listening to stories of earlier days in the neighborhood; her amazing collection of Elvis memorabilia — all of this and more rushed back to me.

I never would have intentionally set out to work in my garden as a way to remember a dear friend who has moved away, but I’m so happy I did.

Even when you think you’re all alone, you’re really not

On this particular day, I was working by myself, simply pulling the creeping Charlie out of this area. Suddenly, the dry leaves near my hand crackled and this lovely toad appeared, seemingly out of thin air. Of course, it had been there the whole time, but I was focused on my task and hadn’t noticed it.

I have a long history of talking to animals, so naturally, I said, “Hello, little friend!” (He said nothing in reply. Toads are not known for their riveting — ha! — conversation.)

Lately, I have found myself swamped by waves of loneliness. Several friends have moved from the area, and my writing is taking up time that might once have been spent socializing. Other friendships have drifted apart, as friendships sometimes do.

Seeing this little guy emerge from nowhere reminded me that I’m never alone. Life is all around me. While having a coffee date or a long walk with a toad would be strange, even for me, I’ve been keeping my eyes open.

Paying attention to the possibilities has led to several opportunities to connect with people. Just as importantly, I have been aware of and present with these interactions. Looking for chances to feed my extrovert soul, and relishing them when I get them has softened the sting of my lonely moments.

You will never “get there”

Just as with tasks such as laundry, emails, and dishes, gardening is not something you do and it’s done. There is so much work to do in my yard to recover from the years of neglect that there is no way it will be done this year.

When it is recovered, still, I will not be done. There will always be more. Maintenance aside, I am learning about rain gardens, pollinator gardens, how to mix bedding plants and vegetables in an attractive manner.

This, my friends, is the reality of life. We will never “get there,’ nor should we. Of course, we will achieve goals and pass milestones, but we find joy in life through continuous growth. New knowledge, experiences, goals, friends, sorrows, and triumphs are what make life worth living.

These are the twelve lessons my garden has shared with me so far. I’m happy I could to pass them on to you. If you don’t garden, don’t worry! No matter how you spend your time, life will teach you the lessons you need.

Look sharp, and listen closely, for there is always more to learn.

Brightest blessings, Sunny

Let’s keep in touch!