"Did you see where this tomato plant decided to grow?"
My husband was pointing down to where the cement wall meets the asphalt ground. A tiny tomato plant was sprouting out, as though telling the world, "Surprise! Bet you didn't expect to see me here, did ya'?"
I smiled and reminded him of last year's pumpkin palooza. We had pumpkin plants sprouting all over the back and front yards. Then there was the one sunflower and one cornstalk growing by the pond. We never intentionally planted seeds in any of the areas in which these plants had taken root, but it did drive a point home for me. We may plant seeds at some point in our lives, and they may not produce when we expect them to, but my goodness, when they take root when you least expect it and in the most surprising way-boy, does it bring a spectacular amount of joy to your heart.
Rewind to three years ago. I was determined to have a little garden at our new home. I went all in, bought a crap-load of seeds. I had no idea what or how to create a vegetable garden. I remember laying out where I wanted certain vegetables to grow, and thought, "Ahhhh, sure, a foot of space between them should be enough." Phew. When I tell you I was wrong. So wrong.
Lesson number one. Always leave about two or more feet of space between seedlings. If you're trying to grow squash or pumpkins-don't even bother planting anything else around those plants. They grow like huge octopuses , arms sprawling out in every direction, gripping whatever is around them-including other plants that are trying to thrive. I had so many vegetable plants growing, and some did well, some not so much. It was just too overwhelming, and the squash plants either strangled their neighboring plants or cast shadows over them, compromising their ability to get sunlight.
Lesson number two. Strawberries. Have them in their own dedicated location, separate from all other plants. I'm not from a big city, but call me a city girl. I did not realize strawberries grow in patches. I did not realize these jump around, invading neighboring territories. Mind you, I had planted two blueberry bushes next to the strawberries. The strawberry plants spread, and I literally had to put up a small fence to stop them from spreading past the blueberries into the vegetable section. The blueberries did not fare too well. A moment of silence for the blueberry bushes please.
Lesson number three and the lesson most relevant to the moral of this blog post. Wherever you drop a seed, whether intentional or not, the seed has potential to grow at its own time, when its ready...and in its own way. In honor of Ochun, my mother in Ocha, I have laid out pumpkins at the pond. Three years ago, my children, a close friend and I, placed several little gourds and two big pumpkins at the foot of the pond. I never removed them. Just like I never thought to remove the little tomatoes that had fallen onto the dirt on their own and had been invaded by ants.. To be honest, there was a part of me that felt it was a more natural way of doing things. Let the tomato, or pumpkin, run its course, and before they began to rot, I would just bury them. The winter came, the snow came, and then the spring came. I was going to be careful this time, and strategically planted things as I learned from the previous year. However, what I did not expect was for the seeds of those tomatoes, and squash...and cilantro...to take root and grow. I couldn't believe when the squash octopus reappeared, this time in my vegetable garden and at the pond, and all over the yard. And then there was also the sunflower and cornstalk at the pond-the most random of all-which I was later told could have both been the product of wind, or birds...who have a habit of carrying things and then dropping them while in flight.
Fast forward back to present day, where we are now growing, once again, pumpkins at the pond, and tomato plants are sprouting out from the driveway. It's been a busy year, and I have not planted my vegetable garden, and we most definitely need to mow the lawn this coming weekend. But even so, the seeds took root on their own and are thriving in their own way, in the least likeliest of places.
Now, shifting gears and talking about people. We are like these plants. in so many ways. There will be some people who will overwhelm us, cast shadows on us, and even try to strangle the life out of us. There will be others who will want what we have, and try to invade our space, or cross our boundaries and violate us in different ways, emotionally and physically. We could try to avoid these people, but we can't always run and hide. We need to learn how to survive, how to thrive, even in the midst of the chaos. Even in the least likeliest of places. We need to learn how to be like seeds. And we need to learn how to plant seeds as well. I was given the gift earlier this week of bumping into a patient I haven't seen for years. Someone who would share about his constant struggle with suicidal ideation. When I saw him this time, he had a smile that was beaming, and he appeared genuinely happy. He shared how his life had changed. He had goals now, big goals, and he was hopeful about the future. At one point during our interaction, he said to me, "There was a time I couldn't see myself living in the world. Now, I can't see myself not being in the world. I have a life now. A future."
Hold up...holding back tears. Even writing those words gives me chills, and my eyes are welling up. I'm so freakin' proud of this person, and if he were to read this, I want him to know how proud I am of him. You know who you are. And you made a change in me too. You reminded me of the power of planting seeds, the potential for change and growth, and how much hope and faith matters.
Regardless of the pumpkin Octopuses and strawberry patches out there in the world, whatever it may be, whether its a toxic relationship, an abusive past, a trauma that haunts us in our sleep, an addiction, or our own anger, whatever it is....we can overcome it in time. We just need to be as persistent as the seed that waits underground, in the dead of winter. Because in time, our time will come, and we will say, "Surprise! Remember me? Bet you didn't expect to see me here, did ya'?"