Waiting Game

Cast Iron plant

In February 2021, right around Valentine’s Day, we had a super cold freeze in Texas – down to zero for a day or two, very unusual – and for the past few months we’ve been evaluating which plants will survive and which will not. We are in zone 7 or 8 here, where that kind of cold can wipe out trees and shrubs as well as smaller perennials. Oddly enough, I have a few annuals that still lived through it, so I’m not sure whether to attribute that to some odd micro-climate in my garden or a random gift from the Universe.

The plant in the photo (above) was one of the plants I watched most closely: a cast iron plant, which does not handle cold well. Most of the year, it looks like big blades of green (it is an evergreen plant, and the flowers, which look like tiny green geodes with purple crystals, form at the base of the plant and you can never actually see them unless you go dig around under there). During the week or so following that cold snap, all the foliage gradually turned brown and it appeared the plant was slowly giving up on life. I have several of these plants in my garden and I cut the leaves off this one, leaving nothing but some brown sticks to remind me exactly where the plant is, just in case the roots survived.

Nothing seemed to be happening for a long time (I gave up checking on it at the beginning of May). Like most important things, the action was slow and out of my sight (or control). I went out for a walk yesterday and noticed the plethora of young green shoots emerging from the ground. How exciting! Although this new development appeared sudden to me, that was only because I hadn’t been paying attention. The growth process was happening, just not in flashy kind of way.

How often does my own ability or intention of noticing anything color my perception of what goes on around me – or in me? How often do I attempt to make things happen quickly, when in fact they are simply working their magic and will reveal themselves in time, and I’d do better to just wait and see?

So many of life’s “waiting is good” metaphors surround me everyday – the garden, my dreadlocks, knitting a blanket, maturing wine or cheese, making yeast breads or yogurt or kombucha – all of these things can be proclaimed “done” if desired, but the reality is that they are continually in process. My determination of done-ness is based on my own criteria for what it means to be ready or best or preferred. There is usually a range within which those criteria can be met: the period between ripe and mealy, risen and overflowing, balanced and sour – exactly how big do I want that blanket to be, anyway? Depending what element it is, that range can vary over a few hours, days, weeks, years….?

Can we apply the same principle to a macro look at the human experience? What if there is no pinnacle of human perfection, only process? I can exercise to tone my muscles but it’s never finished. I can meditate and practice spiritual things but I’m never done learning or exploring or healing. Human society can change and improve, but there’s no utopia at which time we can say “done! We humans, we nailed it!” It’s an on-going process and we each fit into that process, contributing whatever flavors we bring to the table for the time that we inhabit the planet. What flavors do you bring?

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