Learning from the WMNG

It was a sunny late summer day when I ambled over to what I now refer to as the “WMNG.” Within seconds my expression went from cheery yard work smiles to a scowl of disappointment, because right there, in plain view all summer long, my small plot of plants had morphed into the World’s Most Neglected Garden.
The beans, now four feet long and as wide as Popeye’s forearms, grew down to the dirt, their woody seeds pushing through the dehydrated skin. What was left of the tomatoes drooped rotten over their cages, spreading seeds that I’ll surely have to pull as weeds the next year. The broccoli and lettuce had all gone to seed, reaching world record heights, as if lettuce should ever be three feet tall.
And the list goes on, from hidden monster zucchini to a few dozen gnarled up carrots, none more than an inch and a half long. I stood there with my wheelbarrow full of greenery gone bad and realized that the WMNG was trying to teach me something. If I listened very carefully to the rustle of the pepper plants, they were whispering their withered up wisdom.
“Slow down, step back, take care of what really matters to you. And me oh my oh, put those beans out of their misery.”
Sometimes it takes something as tangible and visible as a pathetic garden square to make you take a moment of pause and re-think things. Whoever said that gardening isn’t mentally therapeutic has never had fingernails full of dirt. Not only is it good for the body, it’s good for the soul. For me, it’s what makes the summer really the summer, although this year’s garden was anything but worthy. Looking at the WMNG it was perfectly clear that I overloaded myself and went in too many directions, said “yes” to too many things and neglected one of my most favorite chores.
My mom used to have a poster that hung in her garden shed which she has since framed and given to me. It reads, “All I need to know I learned from gardening.” It has a list of clever phrases and puns including “We’ve all got our own rows to hoe” and “Stay away from seedy characters.” One of my favorites is, “A little manure goes a long way” but there’s one that seems to jump out from behind the glass.
“Weed out all the annoyances in your life.”
I’m not sure why it’s so hard to do, to simple down a life that goes in so many directions. Maybe it’s what parenthood is all about, juggling lessons and practices, homework and healthy eating habits. Multi-tasking is an understatement. Anyone who has filled out school paperwork while talking on the cell phone in the cereal aisle while feeding your kid bologna samples for lunch knows exactly what I’m talking about. On days when I am lucky enough to lay and read to my children at naptime, nine out of ten times I fall fast asleep and the next thing I know someone’s poking me in my eye and asking me to keep reading.
There’s only so much one person can do, and when that pile becomes too overgrown, you’ve just got to weed out those annoyances. Not that my children are my annoyances (although they are plenty annoying sometimes), but it’s the tacked on things here and there that I now know has kept me from the little things that make me happy from the inside out.
“Take time to smell the roses” is one man’s saying. I would rather take time to snap off a fresh bean or squirt a ripe tomato seed across the yard, although not this season. The first thing I plan to do is take time hang that poster from my mom. It’s been sitting in the corner on the floor for months.

***Note: 2010's pathetic sunflower house with sunflowers that barely crested my 2 year old's head (and were supposed to be 10 feet tall.)


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