Monday, August 20, 2007

The Compleat Friendship Garden

Friendship is a hard business. It seems easy at first and things go along smoothly as you get to know each other, but like anything worth doing and keeping it takes work. Friendship is like gardening.

You plant a seed in the moist, fertile earth, water it in, and let the sun do the work of coaxing it from the darkness into the life-giving light. The seed responds with all the energy in its tiny heart by springing upward and unfolding its leaves to catch all the sun's warmth and heat and energy and it keeps growing, quickly at first and then slower and slower as it exhausts the nutrients in the soil and battles for its life against drought or too much rainfall, too much or too little heat, always hungry and needing more, fending off weeds and grazing animals that want to takes its life before it's even full grown and able to produce seeds of its own to carry on while it's still fresh and green, a tasty morsel for avid feeders unwilling or unable to wait. That's where the work comes in: fending off hungry predators, weeding, feeding, nurturing, loving, making sure it gets enough and not too much sun and water, protecting it, growing it, standing by to see it to maturity when it's stronger and more capable of seeding and reseeding the ground to allow others to grow and share its life and resources.

New friendships are intoxicating and joyful as two people get to know each other. There are bound to be a few rocks in the rows, a few aphids on the leaves, and a few predators lurking and waiting to pounce, but overall it is a good time, a time for blending and sharing and growing. It isn't necessary to forget or prune the past to make yourself look more palatable to your new friend but it is a good idea to share things slowly, allowing each new revelation to sink in, to acclimatize. The kinds of relationships that last are when two people allow each other their foibles and flaws, mistakes and errors without judgment, and to keep expectations reasonable. A mustard seed will not produce a rose and a rose bush will never produce an oak, but each is important and necessary in its own way. However, one must be careful not to forget to prune and nurture other, older friendships in the euphoria and adventure of the new friendship.

Some plants, like some friendships, are not made for your growing zone or for the nutrients and resources available. It is nearly impossible to grow lime trees and coconuts outside in Alaska and cacti don't do well in the rain forest. In order to take a plant from the tropics to the arctic it is necessary to provide a suitable environment; the same is true whenever you transplant something from its native habitat into alien soil. The plant may adapt, but it will never grow without the proper encouragement and resources and environment.

In the end, it's about keeping expectations reasonable and adapting to each one's needs and quirks, but in the end it's worth it because you can never have too many plants or too many friends -- unless it's kudzu. Even then, they have a beauty and uses all their own.

That is all. Disperse.

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