I grew so much much during our time of crisis. Now back at home, I find myself struggling. Two virtues are needed for this slow growth in the little way: patience and labor.
In San Francisco, where the growth is good
The sun drew lower behind the high-rise parking garages and medical buildings as she pointed to the planter and said, “we just planted that yellow flower at our house – the one there in the middle. Do you know what it’s called?”
“No, I don’t know San Francisco plants very well,” I responded.
Plants in San Francisco’s microclimate are lush. Anise grows in the cracks of the sidewalks and within weeks of planting, gardens burst with large and impressive arrays of blooms and succulents. They like water; they like the fog.
San Francisco is many things to many people. For me, as we grow further away from our days of crisis, San Francisco is enshrined in my memory as a memorial site, a place where I honor the terrible things that happened in our lives and how they were overcome.
San Francisco represents a state of crisis. In crisis, we could crumble or we grow with more vigor, more robustness, more fruit and foliage, becoming sometimes a rather showy display of those things we never thought possible within ourselves.
Outside of crisis, personal growth slows down
At home the next day, I escape inside from the clouds of dust kicked up by the mower attached to a John Deere tractor working the baby almond orchard next door. Looking out the window I survey the center of our backyard: dirt decorated by weeds. I can imagine a lush carpet of grass, even crabgrass, so long as its green. But it will not come without work.
Here at home, blessedly outside that time of crisis, I find growth comes a little harder. I see my faults (I hear my faults as I fall short of love around four in the afternoon with my children). Like the gardens in progress, things can grow here, but they will take a good deal more work than when all the world seems to stop for us during critical moments of our lives. The rain falls on its own then.
It is time to make a choice and then to act with such necessary actions as will make those virtues grow. Walking alongside the weeds, feeling the dust beneath my bare feet, I plan the steps to a perfect lawn. Even if we rent the tools, buy the seed, sew the seed, lay the mulch, we still need sprinklers. We need enough water. So many steps. So much room for error.
Couldn’t we just hire someone?
Two virtues needed
No, that is outside our options at this time. Recognizing this, I take a moment to set a layer of patience in my heart: for the sprinkler work to be done; to calm the anxious mind that wants so to stress about the unfinished to-do list; enough to turn away from the lawn and see the flowers that are thriving, patience enough to water those flowers by hand.
Patience and labor. Every other day before the heat has settled in our bright summer sky, I go out, dragging the hose, wishing I had worn shoes, and water the wells around my flowers. I need patience with my children, my husband and myself. Lifting my hair off my neck to wipe away the sweat, I think how tired I am of doing this. Yet another flower has bloomed.
It takes work. Even though, I have known intellectually the value of hard physical work, in an automated, technological world, and being the poetic type, I rarely practice it.
This is a lesson as well. A choice must be made. First to be patient. Then to choose a better way to act that I may grow. And then continue the hard work of doing it.
In the mundane, everyday-routine, we lose those moments as days blend into each other. While in crisis, I often said my only choice was “adapt or die” meaning I could grow or I could crumble. But for the sake of my children, I would not crumble.
No, in normal life, I face a choice. It is true, the choice lacks the violence of the choice in the critical moment. Instead, it is slow growth, patience and labor to make a better family, a better wife, a better life.
In the same boat? Try the Prayer of Trust by St. Francis de Sales.