When we moved into our house, we started planning the front yard’s landscaping. For me, it was planning a future – planning a backdrop to all the first day of school photos, the photos with friends, maybe even cocktail parties, receptions. I envisioned the progress of seeing the plants grow, as a backdrop to the girls growing.
We picked rocks, we picked trees. We planned flowers and bushes and planted them where we wanted them to grow.
Just after our first planting, things went missing. Holes were dug. And we realized that javelina and rabbits rule in the unfenced front porch area. So I did research, and studied to find plants that would not only attract butterflies and hummingbirds to liven up my background, but would be resistant to wild things that want to eat them. I ordered at will, and reordered the things no one ate – things likes catmint, and sage, oregano and thyme – I called them the hot and smelly garden plants, because they were xeriscape friendly. They smelled good to us, but not the animals who we would cook as a main dish with the plants as seasonings.
We were on our way to the plan. But then we had volunteers. For those of you without a clever mother who married a wise farmer (without whom I would never know this term), a volunteer is
“A plant that is growing from an unintentionally included seed, a seed that is shed or dropped by a previous crop.“
There were unintentionally included seeds everywhere. Something about roughing up sterile dirt, rocks and uninhabitable ground makes it workable – and volunteers were up everywhere. Palo Verdes by the dozens, creosote, desert marigolds, brittle bush. Plants that one of us loves (we don’t love the same ones, unfortunately) so depending on whether Phil or I do the weeding, the volunteers stay or go.
Right now, our front porch looks lovely. And as I look at it today, with yellow spring flowers blooming from any number of different volunteer plants, and the carefully selected purchased plants growing in behind them to bloom through summer and fall, the porch doesn’t look at all like I expected it to. The trees aren’t as big as I thought they might be by now, but the flowers are much more showy and widespread than I could have imagined. As a backdrop, while not what we originally planned, it is still lovely and a measure of our lives.
Lately, I think often about the path our lives take. The ones we plan, and the one we grow into with the volunteers that pick us. It is a reminder that we don’t end up where we wanted to, much of the time. Things don’t turn out how we expect. People we planned on having forever leave before we are ready for them to. I can’t see spring flowers without expecting to see Andra with her camera, taking photos to print for her walls, or edit on her ipod. That makes me sad for the flowers, who are trying so hard to fill in the space on our front porch, getting ready for their close up.
It may, however, be those same flowers that are also trying to send us a message. Even when your plans fall through, volunteers kick in to fill in and help along what you started. There are still flowers blooming. They aren’t the ones we planned on. They don’t look like we expected. But if you didn’t know what was missing, it would look like a pretty nice place.
This isn’t the life I planned on. But if I didn’t know what was missing, it would look like a pretty nice place.
Today, I caught some song lyrics I have heard a million times that I never really heard (this happens often to me these days and usually with poor results) but today it was where I was, in a hopeful and very grateful kind of way. So a little Pearl Jam (not at all what you expected, huh?) that made me grateful for all the volunteers that grow in our yard (that’s you).