Sunday, July 3, 2022

When Life Gives You Lemons ...

We've all been there. We've all had those bumps in the road. Sometimes, they're tiny little bumps, and we get past them fairly easily, not really noticing that they're there. Other times, they're big bumps. They're meant to slow us down. They're called speed bumps when we're driving through a parking lot. They force us to slow down.  

This is what life does for us. It's a metaphor used over and over again, comparing bumps in the road as we drive our cars, to the trials we have in our lives. We're happily living our lives, just going along, then we come to a bump. A little bump, like having to renew our driver's license or that the vacuum cleaner has quit, are easy. They're time consuming, but doable. Thank goodness, most bumps are small like that. But every now and then, there's a big one. Every now and then, we come to a big bump: We have an accident that totals our car; we lose a loved one; we find out we have a incurable disease. What do we do?

There's other metaphors we use for life, like, "When life throws you a curve ball," or "When life gives you lemons." 

These metaphors set us up for the question, "What do we do?" 

I love my gardens. I love growing my tomatoes every year, a nice crop of cilantro, and, of course, my sunflowers.


Gardens take time. Having gardens in my life make me slow down, most of the time. 

This summer, with the help of my family, I recently re-landscaped my front yard. We live in Southern California, and the whole state is suffering from a severe drought. I am always wanting to do my part in life, I am always trying to contribute to the bigger picture. So, one of the ways I knew I could help the bigger picture of the drought situation in Southern California is by changing the watering habits of our property. Going drought tolerant was the best and most logical solution. We removed the front lawn of Saint Augustine grass, and I designed and planted a new. drought tolerant park-like scene. This was perfect for me, because I love to garden. I love any kind of garden, flowers, vegetables, or drought tolerant. I am so in love with my new front yard. It was a big project that I really wanted to get done.


Re-landscaping the front yard was not a bump in my road. It was a project that kept me busy. I am constantly trying to stay busy because, recently, I learned I have rheumatoid arthritis. This diagnosis was a long time coming, as I had been having symptoms of the disease, but always attributed the symptoms to something else. A simple blood test set me straight. 

This diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis is a big bump in my road. I feel like life has thrown me a curve ball. I feel like life as given me lemons. I feel like I haven't written a blog for a while because I have been dealing with pain and fatigue for so long, I just didn't have it in me to write. I have been feeling very sad and very fearful of my future. I was not expecting a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. I had no understanding of the disease, and as I have educated myself, I feel like my sadness and my fear has increased. This is a very big bump in my road. Life has thrown me a curve ball. Life has given me lemons. What do I do?

Why do they put large speed bumps in a parking lot? Obviously to slow people down. Driving fast in a parking lot is just asking for bigger problems. Speed bumps slow us down. The bigger the speed bump, the slower we go. That's what we do. We slow down.

When I learned that I have rheumatoid arthritis, I didn't slow down. I went into denial about it, and if I'm being honest, I'm still a little in denial. I also keep myself distracted from it by staying busy. Staying busy and having rheumatoid arthritis do not mix. So, as much as I try to deny it to myself, and as much as I try to distract myself by staying busy, I get reminded that it's there even more so, because staying busy unfortunately brings more pain.

I have a problem with not being busy. Another metaphor we like to use is, "Life is short." Life IS short, so I want to enjoy as much of it as I can by being busy. I want to have projects, like re-landscaping my front yard. I want to have another project as soon as possible. I don't want to slow down! But, rheumatoid arthritis won't let me stay busy. Rheumatoid arthritis is forcing me to slow down.

Is slowing down bad? Is slowing down wrong? In my mind, my answer to both those questions was, "Yes." But, I have been so tired and so sad. I don't know why I have been having trouble finding a sense of peace when I love staying busy.

Then, I went to church. I'm a firm believer that God talks to us often, we just have to know how to listen. I have been so consumed by my diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis and fighting what it means to my life that I forgot to listen. God really does work in mysterious ways. He definitely got my attention recently. The theme of the mass was all about peace and rest. Essentially, it was about slowing down.

There's a song we sing at church sometimes. It's called, "Be Not Afraid." The words of the chorus are, "Be not afraid. I go before you always. Come, follow me, and I will give you rest." Peace and rest are very important to God. Remember, God rested on the seventh day. If God rested, rest is ok. Slowing down is ok. It isn't bad or wrong. It's necessary. God rested and appreciated all the days He was busy creating. What a concept! Appreciating what you do, taking time to feel good about something is healthy! Taking time. Resting and taking time to be happy automatically gives you peace. 

There's another metaphor that I really love, but because of my rheumatoid arthritis, I have recently forgotten it. The metaphor is "Stop and smell the roses."

What this metaphor means is that it's important we slow down and appreciate the beauty of life. I was good at smelling the roses before having rheumatoid arthritis. I still am, I've just forgotten. I'm good at gardening, which takes time. I'm good at re-landscaping. I'm good at a lot of things, but it doesn't mean I need to keep doing them, one after another, constantly, as a distraction. I need to remember to take a minute or two and appreciate what I've done. 

I have rheumatoid arthritis. It's my most recent bump in my road. Life has thrown me a curve ball and has given me lemons. What do I do? It took me a little while, but I figured it out. I am not alone in my rheumatoid arthritis. God goes before me always. I think I will continue to follow Him, and He will give me rest.

And, every now and then, when life gives me lemons, I will make lemon poppyseed cookies!

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Seeds, Jonas Salk, and Repairing the World

 I marvel at seeds. They're so small, and yet they hold so much inside them.

They're almost magical to me. They come in different sizes, but their size is not always reflective of what is inside of them and what will eventually grow from them. All seeds remind me of the story of the mustard seed in the bible: A very small seed that grows into a very large tree. The story is about having faith. It's about a tiny seed growing into something so big. The story tells us if we had a tiny bit of faith, we could do big things.

I think all seeds have a faith story. Seeds are so inspirational to me. I don't like to take them for granted. Their abilities are so far reaching, considering how they begin their lives. First, they're plugged an inch or two into the earth, literally covered and lost in dirt. Next, they're watered, day after day, drowned under the dirt they've been pushed into. Then, the sun does its part, warming the earth the seeds are compacted down into, encouraging the seeds to magically shed their outer shell. It's as if the sun is in on the secret. Finally, and hopefully, the little seeds grow, pushing their roots down deeper into the soil and reaching their stems up slowly, escaping from their earthly entrapment.

Why? Because seeds have something to do. It's a type of resurrection, really. These tiny lifeless seeds become full of life! They must be put into the ground in order to come to life! It's beautiful, isn't it? And very reflective of another story in the bible about resurrection, but that story is for another time.

Seeds remind me that even little things matter. Seeds have purpose. They have goals. They need help attaining their goals, but once that help is given, seeds give back in abundance.

As it often happens, I am learning lessons in my garden again. My little seeds are teaching me about faith and setting goals...

Setting goals are important, and, like seeds, most times, we need help achieving the goals we set for ourselves. Having faith in what you want to accomplish and setting a goal to get there gives us purpose. It also helps identify who we are in the world. Goals and accomplishments are a way to leave your mark, something that says, "I was here, and I did this," very similar to what a seed does. Having faith and setting goals can help us keep our focus on just what is most important. Without focus, we lose our way. A tomato seed doesn't grow a carrot. A tomato seed grows a tomato.

Then, when ripe, that tomato is picked and used in a salad or on a hamburger, maybe a tomato pizza! That one tomato is for someone to enjoy. That tomato is not supposed to be kept on the vine. Having goals can be similar. "I was here, and I did this... for you." Reminds me of yet another bible story about not hiding your light under a bushel basket.

We all know doing for others is a great goal.

I have received the COVID-19 vaccination, the Pfizer version. I've also recently received the booster. Getting the vaccine was a goal of mine. It was an attainable goal, one I knew I'd be able to accomplish, eventually. And I did, like so many others. Getting vaccinated was something I did for myself, but I also knew that in my doing, I was contributing to a bigger picture. I was helping others around me, helping the world, in the grand scheme of things. We need to get passed the pandemic, and we're getting there. More and more people are getting vaccinated. I think the future looks good for all of us, because of the vaccine. Our lives are so much better than just a year ago. Families are celebrating Christmas together without the use of a computer screen. It's all good. The vaccine is good.

I'm a big believer in vaccines. I became more of a believer after having my children. I learned a lot about vaccines raising my kids. Talk about setting goals! Having a child does something to you practically overnight with ideas of setting goals, and vaccines play a big part. As a parent, you really do want the best for your child. That requires setting attainable goals and meeting them, like getting your child properly vaccinated so they won't have certain diseases in their future. As a parent, you are always doing for someone else. You are doing for your child, each and every day. You're setting attainable goals and setting examples you hope they will follow. You want your kids to grow up and help contribute to the bigger picture and the grand scheme of things. After all, your kids are your future. It's your example they will learn from. It's your future you are forming for yourself through them.

After receiving my first vaccine, I started reading about the different COVID vaccines that were available. I read about the Pfizer vaccine, particularly, since that is the vaccine I received. Then, as is the way when one Google search leads to another, I eventually stumbled upon an article about Jonas Salk, the doctor and scientist who developed the first safe and effective vaccine for polio. Dr. Salk was a very fascinating person. He was well-known and even famous for developing the vaccine for polio, but he was perhaps less famous or even known for his total concern for humanity except by those closest to him. Jonas Salk was born with a goal: To better the lives of suffering humans. As I read about Dr. Salk, I learned he was driven to do good for people. As a child he had been extremely affected by seeing so many of his friends suffer during the 1918 influenza pandemic. It might have been the beginning of his desires to help people. His older brothers would call him "Little Jesus" because Salk would pray that he would one day do something good for people. He had aspirations of being somewhat of a savior.

"Little Jesus" is a funny nickname, as Jonas Salk and his family were Jewish. In the Jewish faith, many people, including Jonas Salk and his family, believe that acts of goodness define a person. Salk was raised with the morals of "ma'asim tovim" and "tikkum olam", which is Hebrew for "good deeds" and "repairing the world." No wonder Dr. Salk was so accomplished and able to help others!

How do I begin writing about seeds and wind up writing loquaciously about Dr. Jonas Salk? I suppose it comes down to doing good in the world, particularly doing good for others. 'Tis the season to do good for others! If you haven't done so already, set a goal, give yourself a gift that can also be shared with so many others. Get vaccinated. And when you do, think of Dr. Salk and his morals of good deeds and repairing the world. 

Merry Christmas! Peace on earth... because of people with goodwill!

Who knew Dr. Salk had so much in common with a seed!

Sunday, April 25, 2021

The Pursuit of Happiness ...

Cilantro is a staple in my garden. I grow a lot of it. It's a good thing, too, because I love cilantro. I love the scent of cilantro, I love the taste, I love harvesting it when it's grown into a healthy little bush, feeling its feathery little leaves and juicy little stems. I even love seeing it grow from its tiny first leaves into that healthy little bush. It grows very quickly, too. I bet, if all else was quiet around the healthy little cilantro bush, I might be able to hear it as it grows and stretches its stems and forms new leaves. In my honest opinion, cilantro is a feast for the senses.

​That saying is fun, "a feast for the senses." It brings to mind something I recently learned about happiness. I learned that one of the ways to enjoy happiness is to know how to savor. How to savor what? Anything, really--moments, people, places, foods--the list goes on. Savoring anything involves your senses. It is an act we do spontaneously when we are engaged in something giving us joy or happiness. It is experiencing positive feelings while simultaneously and spontaneously focusing awareness on those feelings. Savoring entails deliberately focusing our attention on what we are doing and bringing the whole experience into awareness as it is happening with as many of the senses as possible. Cilantro is one of those experiences that cover all the bases for me.  I savor cilantro, everything about it, and it makes me happy. But it's not the only thing. 

My daughter recently texted me a picture of her first loaf of homemade whole wheat bread. The picture of this loaf of bread made my mouth start to water, it looked so good. I texted her back and told her that it looked so good, I could almost smell it. Isn't it funny how we are able to do that, almost taste or smell something just by looking at a picture? I was able to do this because I have savored warm, fresh baked bread in the past. I know what it smells like, I know what it looks like, and I know what it tastes like. I even know what it feels like and what it sounds like as I slice it. I have savored the goodness of warm, fresh baked bread using all my senses, and I have enjoyed the experience so much, I remember it. 

Using our senses and taking time to savor something causes a moment of happiness to happen in our brains, and we don't usually forget that feeling of happiness, at least our brains don't. Our brains play a key role in helping us with our senses and leading us to happiness. And after all, what is our purpose in life if it isn't to be happy?

What about someone who is hearing or vision impaired? It is well known that the other senses become heightened if one of the senses is impaired. Beethoven was practically deaf by the time he was 44, but because he knew the joy and the happiness he felt in making his music before he lost his hearing, he continued to write music and play his piano by using his sense of sight, touch, and his imagination. Beethoven savored the music he created with his sense of hearing before losing it, as well as his sense of touch. He was able to use his mind after losing his hearing, because he knew what his music sounded like and what it felt like creating the beautiful music at his piano. Beethoven, using his other senses of sight and touch, as well as his mind and imagination, wrote Moonlight Sonata, the opera Fedelio, and six symphonies, all without his sense of hearing. He knew the happiness he felt making his music, and his other senses filled-in for his lack of hearing.

I've always been fascinated with our five senses. I can remember learning about them all the way back in kindergarten, and I must have always been a word person, because I also remember learning the word "senses" and its definition. The word and its meaning have always stuck with me. I remember being fascinated that there was a word that described what my eyes, ears, nose tongue, and fingers did. They sensed things; they perceived things outside of myself. They helped me understand the world around me.

The word “savor” has become a word I enjoy because of learning a deeper meaning of it. Understanding anything that brings happiness into my life is always good. Without knowing it, I have been savoring moments with my senses for a very long time. In fact, the first nine months of my life was the foundation of savoring a moment using my senses. 

Our senses come predisposed, it seems, to embrace happiness. It's truly amazing how we are wired from the first day of our lives. We come into this world from first being safely wrapped and cuddled within our mother's womb. We are allowed unknowingly to savor this feeling for nine months. Our brain is developing, and slowly, our first sense is being formed. This first sense slowly forming and being savored by our forming brain may likely be the most important sense we have throughout the rest of our lives: The sense of touch. Some may disagree and believe that sight, sound, smell, or taste is more important. But the sense of touch is what connects us to each other. The warmth we feel, what our brain is savoring are the first feelings of happiness, being safely wrapped in our mother's womb. This feeling will follow us throughout our lives each time we give someone a hug. When we wrap our arms around another we love, it conjures that happy feeling formed in our earliest moments, and our brain likes that. 

The other four senses follow suit. The foundations are formed when we are very young, and our brain locks onto the moments of happiness. This is why we are not able to look away from a beautiful sunset. If you have a sweet tooth, it's probably because we are all born preferring the sweet flavor of foods to anything else. Because our sense of smell and taste are somewhat intertwined, we also prefer sweet scents to anything other. Why do we enjoy petting our cats or our dogs? Because it's been proven that when we touch soft things, it calms our minds.  
Have you ever watched a toddler wiggle when they hear music? We are born to love music and rhythm. It literally moves us, and our wiggles follow us into our adulthood, and we dance. Perhaps the joy we find in music is planted first by hearing our mother’s heartbeat. It was our first sound, the first rhythm we heard, and was savored by our brains for nine months, planting seeds of happiness.

In the pursuit of happiness, I think we should follow our senses. We should let them lead us to what ultimately brings us joy. Maybe that’s by growing cilantro, or writing symphonies. It could be visiting museums and gazing at beautiful paintings. Maybe it is bringing life back to neglected furniture, or even baking the perfect loaf of whole wheat bread. Whatever it is, we must let our senses lead us.

Maybe that’s why I enjoy being in my garden. Growing anything really, not only cilantro, is a feast for my senses. My eyes take in the new seedlings of tomato plants, onions, cilantro, and of course the sunflowers that bloom where they are (not always) planted. I hear the sounds of the birds, voices of neighbor children, and the breeze in the trees. I smell the earthy scent of the soil I’m working in. I feel the soil with my hands, digging in it, allowing it to fall between my fingers. I nibble the strawberries as soon as they are ripe, straight out of the garden. Gardening is a feast for my senses because I have savored every moment and every aspect of it. It brings me happiness. 

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The Secret To Success ...

 I was thinking about the traits of successful people and what they seem to have in common, what their secret to success is. Although success is measured differently for all of us, and we view success differently, too, most of us have achieved some sort of success. It's usually something that we want or something that makes us happy. Depending upon what we are striving for, finding success could take years to achieve, or it could take the amount of time it takes to grow a tomato--maybe 60 to 80 days.

Usually, success is something we strive for because it brings us satisfaction, happiness, and maybe even joy. I think if success isn't measured in terms of what's truly important for the person striving for it, achieving success may be difficult for some, but not impossible. Furthermore, I can only believe that success, no matter what it is or who wants it, is usually obtained by people who have similar traits or things in common with their personalities and how they think, believe, and maneuver through their life.  And, in saying that, I am apt to believe all or most of us humans have quite a few things in common, since most of us have sought after and found success in some area of our lives. We're more alike than we think, even with our many differences.

Personality traits that quickly come to mind when I think about someone seeking success are tenacity, perseverance, and passion. It's also believable to think that most successful people have confidence helping them achieve their goals. They probably have diligence and will power, and most are likely to be very disciplined people. I Googled "shared traits of successful people", just to see if the World Wide Web agreed with some of my thoughts. It did. But I was a little surprised that I didn't find something about successful people appreciating the help of others in their world, other people who support and encourage them to achieve their success. After all, it is with the help from those around us,  those in our worlds who support us, that most of us find success and reach the goal we are wanting.

Some, not all, believe that to achieve success, you must aim for your goal, keeping your eye on the prize, and not letting anyone or anything get in your way. This works for a lot of people, and it can be a way to achieve your dreams and passions. But I don't think it's the perfect way to find success. I think there are people along the way to your success, helping you and supporting you, as you make your way to obtain your goal. 

As always, thinking about success and people and others who help along the way made me think of my garden. For whatever reason, I'm always finding answers to my thoughts in my garden! This time, my thoughts brought me to the idea of companion planting. 

I had never heard of companion planting until I had become a gardener, and even then, I didn't know anything about it. Companion planting is a way to grow plants together to get the best out of each plant. It is a way to have each plant be very successful and reach their goal, whether that is to have sunflowers reach 12 feet into the sky or to grow beefsteak tomatoes the size of grapefruit.  This is done by putting different plants together, plants that will complement each other by enjoying the same type of soil, or perhaps the flowers blooming on one will help pollinate the other, maybe one plant has the capability of repelling pests for the other, or very tall sunflowers providing protection to shade-loving lettuces. The two different plants help each other to successfully grow and be more productive because of their complementary characteristics.

After thinking about this for a while, I started thinking about the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." This beautiful rule has biblical roots, but we all appreciate it. Most of us live our lives by following it, and we don't even know it. In so doing, we help each other succeed just by being kind to each other. Kindness begets helpfulness. Our differences are outshined by our abilities to be complementary, and that's just by being kind.

As the Fab Four would say, "I get by with a little help from my friends. I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends." Most people appreciate a little help from others in their world in their search for success. Of course, every so often, you find someone who may not necessarily appreciate your help. This is someone who would rather be alone on their search for success. That's okay, too. Whether they know it or not, they're receiving support from those in their worlds who understand their need for space. 

I picture a cactus in the desert. It's not often you see a pretty desert daisy complementing the area around the cactus. Usually, there's just desert dirt around the base of a cactus plant.  The wildflowers in the desert give the cactus space. Eventually the distant and blooming wildflowers help the cactus reach its goal. It's as if the cactus seems to appreciate the space provided by the blooming desert flowers and ultimately blooms a beautiful flower of its own. Have you ever seen a cactus flower? It's so beautiful. It's what the cactus has the desire to do, on its own without any help or complementary plants nearby. The cactus successfully blooms one of the prettiest flowers seen in the desert. 

Some plants enjoy the company of different plants. Some plants appreciate the gifts different plants have to offer. The support just happens, and both plants succeed. The symbiotic relationship between the two plants is automatic. Other plants, like the cactus, need a different type of support. They need space. Both types of plants use the support they have near or far from other plants, and both types of plants eventually obtain success.

Maybe people are like plants. Some appreciate others in their world to be nearby as they find their way to success. But others will achieve success, appreciating help from a distance. Some people just need a little space. But other people don't need space at all.

No two people are alike in every aspect of their lives or who they are, but we do enjoy each other's company. We support each other; we build each other up without even thinking about it. We treat each other with kindness, we do unto others as we would like to have done unto us, and that helps all of us navigate our worlds. Some of us are on paths to very big things; we have big goals and determinations. We need support from others to achieve our goals and reach our success. Others of us, without too much support from anyone else, just hope and pray the tomato seeds planted in the ground decide to grow. That, too, is a goal, and when the tomato plants begin to poke through the dirt, the first moments of success are felt. 

Tenacity, perseverance, passion--we all have them. We're all successful in our individual world-gardens supporting each other very closely with complementary abilities or giving space and allowing the other to find their way. We're more alike than we think, even with our many differences. But our differences are outshined by our abilities to be complementary, and that's just by being kind. Perhaps that's what true success really is. Perhaps the secret to success is the ability to be kind. 

Saturday, March 27, 2021

Bloom Where You Are Planted...

I like people who are problem solvers. It’s nice being around them. There's a sense of security, I think, and I like that feeling, that safe and secure feeling. It's also a happy feeling, perhaps even a feeling of love, and who doesn't like that feeling? 

I think I'm a problem solver, at least, I like to think that I am. I like figuring things out. In fact, I can't help it. I think it's part of my personality, part of who I am. I love that exciting moment, the AHA! moment, when you’ve been perplexed by something and you can't figure it out. Then, almost out of the blue, it hits you, and it all comes together. You realize you have it all figured out, and a big smile spreads across your face. I think that's one of the best feelings in the world. Tony Shalhoub proved this feeling repeatedly acting as Adrian Monk in the TV show, Monk. "Here’s what happened," Monk would say with a smile. 

There's always something to figure out. No matter what the circumstance is, there's always something to figure out. It's part of life, it's part of living. Some days, the circumstance is easier, some days, not. But, every day, whatever the circumstance is, it's gotta be figured out. 

This makes me think of a sunflower and how it blooms. But, not just how it blooms, where it blooms, as well. A sunflower blooms pretty much where it's planted. Sunflower seeds are problem solvers. They figure out what to do, and they do it. Then, they shine brightly, just like a warm smile.  I've seen it happen in my own back yard.

Every year, I plant sunflower seeds. They're seeds that I collected from last spring and summer's flowers. I have millions of sunflower seeds by the end of the summer, so I always have a new crop of the gorgeous, sunshiny flowers every year.

When my flowers all die back, I wait for the stalks to completely dry, then I cut them down. I meticulously cut each dried sunflower from the stalk, and on some stalks, that's a lot. I've had sunflower stalks with more than 20 flowers! So, as I collect the dried flowers, some seeds inadvertently fall in areas of the lawn or other parts of the garden. Come the following spring and summer, I have sunflowers growing exactly where I planted them, but also sometimes in the middle of the lawn, or mixed between tomatoes and cilantro, or even by the baby crape myrtle tree.


Sunflowers bloom where they are planted. They don't mind their circumstance. They figure out a way to make the ground work for what they need to do. They problem solve, and they sink their roots, stretch their stalks, and grow beautiful green leaves and amazing golden flowers. It's like there's nothing stopping them from being happy. They're secure in their circumstance because they figured out how to make it work. They bloom where they are planted.

I like thinking about this regarding sunflowers. I like watching them make the best of their worlds, and I try to apply their wisdom to my own life. Not every day is easy. Not every day is the same. Just like the soil under sunflower seeds, you just never know what you're gonna get. Perhaps Forrest Gump was also onto this idea with his box of chocolates. Talk about blooming where you are planted. Forrest Gump sure did! 

Remembering this can create so much joy in life. It's not simple, but it can happen. The problem solvers of the world know it. They're the ones we look to. They're the ones who bring us a sense of security and happiness. Perhaps even love. 

Sunday, March 14, 2021

There's No Space Between a Hug ...

Let’s talk space. It’s topical lately. During this COVID-19 pandemic, six feet is the recommended amount of space you should practice when you come into the presence of another person not living under the same roof as yours. It’s called “social distancing.” It’s what is deemed an appropriate amount of space to keep us from perhaps spreading a highly contagious disease. When the mandate was first passed down, it felt odd to all of us. Six feet feels like an awful lot of space when you’re so accustomed to not noticing or practicing how close you are to another. I think human beings have a type of invisible magnet in them that naturally pulls them closer to each other, though. Six feet isn’t really all that far, but most times we are closer to each other as we pass or share a space. We just don’t think about it. It’s natural to walk past someone within inches. So to be told to practice six feet, to notice the distance, the space between feels very far, indeed.

And, we’re practicing this in order to stay healthy. We need to give each other space to breathe, to live, and to grow.

This needing space thing makes me think of my gardens.

I have two gardens in my backyard. I call them my north garden and my south garden. They’re about the same size, maybe 9ft x 9ft, give or take a foot or two. Neither of them are very large garden areas, but I must harvest a hundred tomatoes of varying sizes from them every year. 
Over the years, I’ve been blessed with tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, zucchini, snap peas, green beans, cilantro, garlic, onions, garlic, and tomatillos. 

Tomatillos are fun to grow. They grow in abundance. We had salsa verde for the longest time thanks to the abundance of tomatillos. Then, one year, I had corn growing in my little north garden. That took some doing. Lo and behold, corn needs to grow a little closer together than I first thought. They’re not the type of plant that needs a lot of space between. Enough space, but not too much. Corn stalks actually grow better if they can touch each other. It’s how they make their ears of corn. They have to touch each other. Broccoli, on the other hand, needs a lot more space. Two broccoli plants can take up about half my garden! And not much below their leaves will grow because there’s too much shade blocking the sun from reaching the soil below. 

It almost sounds as if I have 40 acres, doesn’t it? The corn grew in the north 40. Just kidding. It didn’t, and I don’t have 40 acres. My gardens are relatively small, but I am pretty good at using the space. The problem is, sometimes, if the onions are too close, they grow funny. If you plant too many tomatillo plants, you have salsa verde for a very long time.

I’ve learned by gardening that I need to use my space wisely to get the best out of my garden. I’ve also learned that if plants in your garden are growing too close together, and one plant gets sick, disease will spread very quickly to the plants nearby. Contagious, easily spread disease could wipe out your garden in no time. Does this sound familiar? But, given enough space between your plants, they grow and thrive. They are happy. This applies for human beings, as well. Given enough space between us, we grow and thrive and we are happy.

It’s important not to be too close to each other, but it’s also very important to not have too much space between the ones we love. That invisible magnet pulls us closer, or at least close enough. If the space is miles between, we close the space by calling each other, writing emails, texting, etc. We want and need  to close the space, to fill the space, to feel the closeness of each other one way or another. If we are under the same roof, we are able to close the space even better. We cook, clean, celebrate, live and love very closely. There’s no space between a hug.

Then there’s this thing called “outer space.” Ever heard of it? There’s a great quote from the movie, Contact, that I just love: “The universe is a pretty big place. It's bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it's just us... seems like an awful waste of space.” There’s that invisible magnet again, pulling us humans toward something else that may be living. We human beings feel the need to fill the space. We want to visit outer space, we want to find other living things, we’re curious if we are alone in all this awful lot of space the universe holds. And, we’re pretty sure—or want to be sure—we are not alone. We again want to fill the space. Why is that? I wonder sometimes.

I’ve learned by gardening that I need to use my space wisely to get the best out of my garden, but that doesn’t mean I always apply what I’ve learned. I try to squeeze as many seeds into my soil that I possibly can. I sometimes forget that my onions need more space or that two broccoli plants could cover all the soil below, casting shadow and slowing the growth of any seeds hoping to feel the warmth of the sun. Why do I do this? I think it’s because I’m hopeful. I love to watch my garden grow. I love to see the vegetables begin to form. I’m excited about the possibilities. I love to fill the space.

Maybe that’s the same for all human beings. We pull closer to each other because we’re excited about the possibilities. We want to believe there’s more life out there in that great universe full of space because we’re hopeful. We know we need to allow each other space to breathe, to live, and to grow. But, we just can’t help to fill the space. 

When Life Gives You Lemons ...