I gritted my teeth. "Robin, I have a plant for you..." my mother-in-law's voice was joyful and sweet.
She was a genius at this: bringing rogue plants into my carefully cultured, meticulously designed garden. Invariably, they were not what I had planned, and she had plenty of opinions about what I should or shouldn't plant and where. She also had a penchant for plants that died on me.
I smiled and said. "Thank you, Anne. That is very sweet." I tried to be grateful. She was so thoughtful, right? But in my heart, I was worried. This plant had every possibility of becoming "The Most Annoying Thing" between Anne and me - a totally unlikely plant that lived because she planted it, and I hadn't.
I had a lot of theoretical knowledge that told me this plant would not do well in our climate. However, Anne had faith, practical experience, and a willingness to try even if she failed. I was risk averse. She was adventurous and successful. I was limited by preconceived notions. She spent $3.99 on an experimental little sprout, nurtured it, watered it, loved it, and ignored my mutterings. Her contribution was vibrant, lively, thriving, with much less stress than my graph-paper plan.
People are like gardens. If you nurture only what you know will succeed, you miss the joy of what naturally thrives. Now, a garden is not nature run wild. We need discipline, wisdom, and guidance to find a healthy path. What we don't need is perfection, and our kids don't need that either. We can have a happy family and an interesting career without perfect grades, a top college pedigree, a prestigious job title, or a finished to-do-list.
A few years ago, I realized that it's called the Garden of Eden and not the Lawn of Eden for a good reason. Healthy ecosystems are diverse. We don't want to compare ourselves to each other or teach kids that they should all look the same or that we're disappointed with them because they are different. Value the unexpected, the serendipitous, the delightful in people, and encourage them to value these qualities in themselves. Value them in yourself, too.
Now that we are living in Oregon, I plan to have lots of sweet william. I will also try pendulous begonias, another of Anne's favorites. I'm excited to see what wants to grow.