I sometimes feel like everything I could have is just inches from my grasp- an apartment of my own, a better retention of the Spanish language, a set of firmer biceps, etc. So when I become intent on obtaining something, I can put the weight of the world onto it. Trivial pursuits become wars of manifest destiny. I believe I do this because I have a fatal disease that comes with a timer whose tick is the soundtrack in my everyday life. At the risk of sounding morbid, I won’t be around for any more pursuits, trivial or otherwise, once that buzzer rings. Therefore, even the mundane becomes important because that might be all I have the chance to achieve. From that perspective, the mundane doesn’t look so bad.
Last summer, after having come out of a 19-day hospitalization in February, I stumbled upon my new desired conquest. It came about after my mom had proposed a simple plan for me to have a garden. Her design included a dozen or more large flower pots arranged on an old picnic table that was set in the sunniest corner of our yard. A garden was an idea I had tossed around for a few years, so I had already been plotting for peas, carrots, radishes, beets, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Yet before we had even bought the seeds and soil, my most ambitious plans were truly for growing lavender.
Highlighting the fact that it wasn’t exactly typical for lavender to grow in the midst of a vegetable garden, my dad asked what lavender even was. I told him it was some kind of flower-thing, because I myself was actually unsure of the actual taxonomical classification of lavender. (I’ve read it’s a flower and an herb.) After he further asked what one does with lavender, I had to stop and think about it. I mentioned things like potpourri and homemade soap, but, truth be told, I didn’t really know what I was going to do with the lavender. I only recalled that a friend of mine had a pestle and mortar set full of dried lavender buds at her house when I was in junior high, and her mother would take the pestle and grind the buds until the aroma was released. This simple, heavenly thing inspired me at the time to attempt to grow lavender of my own in a small pot on the windowsill. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful at a time when success was quite important to my shaping psyche. The only thing that sprouted from this attempt was a taste of unexpected disappointment and, moreover, a fascination with this finicky plant. With this passionate preoccupation budding slowly over time, lavender became the white whale of my gardening aspirations, and one more undertaking onto which I pinned my hopes and dreams.
Apparently, any gardener worth their blue ribbon-winning beans knows that lavender is a tricky flower to grow. Many buy a starter plant because they don’t have the patience or skill to grow this beautiful, aromatic perennial from seed. Of course I did not know this. I only learned this after the fact from reading how-to articles about lavender. I was such a novice gardener this past summer, that I had no clue I was so inept. I had figured (or hoped): put soil into pots, place seeds in the soil, water regularly, and reap the inevitable yield. I was so naïve. I planned for one pot outside and one pot inside because I didn’t know which scenario was more conducive to the growing of lavender. Then I faithfully bid Godspeed to the tiny little lavender seeds and nestled them in a bed of Miracle-Gro’s best blend.
Now I must tell you that I’m certainly not the most patient person you’ll ever meet. It’s just one virtue that I will never pick up. I knew that this garden, however, was going to require at least some patience. So I had planted my vegetables and lavender with hopes that the garden gods would expedite the bountiful blossoms. Each night I routinely watered and sang to my dirt-filled pots. The weather at this time became extremely humid and quite sunny. It was therefore no surprise when the first veggie crops sprouted after only six days. (I secretly suspected that my singing was responsible.) The perfectly formed, tiny green florets were nothing short of a miracle. I inspected them carefully, in awe of the growth that I had helped facilitate. But such rapid results were actually regrettable for my lavender obsession, for I now held the unreasonable expectation that they, too, would have such a hasty growth rate. I faced disappointment again.
In the midst of the burgeoning vegetable bounty stood my lonely pot of soil with lavender seeds. Only a few scant weeds poked through the soil. I allowed them to grow, however, just in case my untrained eye was unable to discern a weed from an early blossom. After watching every other planting endeavor prove fruitful, I began to wonder anxiously why this plant alone would not materialize. My heart sank as, week after week, my lavender refused to take hold. This pursuit had become another metaphor for everything important in my life. The one plant I was truly excited to grow was the only one that wouldn’t.
Just around the point at which my tenuous patience began to wane severely, just when I was about to solidify my failure and send my lavender (or lack thereof) to the compost pile, a small miracle happened. It was somewhere between week eight or nine of Lavender Watch 2013, and I was watering my pride and joy early one balmy evening. Like some tragic comedy, I had been watering the weeds that grew in the lavender pot. My broken heart couldn’t bear to abandon ship, though the moment was nigh. This time, though, as the slight mist from my garden hose grazed the mishmash of greenery in the lavender pot, I could have sworn I caught the scent of that elusive flower on the wind. I nearly knocked over my towering pea plants as I whipped back around to where I’d smelled the fragrance. My nose, like a bloodhound, sniffed it’s way to the source: one of the little clusters of “weeds” was not a weed after all. By golly. I had grown lavender.
I had to wipe away a few small triumphant tears before shouting for my mom to come outside and verify that I indeed had succeeded, that I’d actually had my lavender budding this whole time right beneath my nose. What I thought was eluding me had been mine for some time already. For at least a week, it turns out that while I jokingly cultivated these weeds, my lavender was also in there somewhere. What I had wanted was with me all along, unbeknownst to me. Had I literally stopped to smell the roses, or lavender as the case may be, I would have saved myself much self-doubt and heartache.
So I may become hyper-focused on things that others deem trite. My brass ring might be something quite simple. I can seem obsessive. But it’s these little victories that make up my life right now. Of course, sometimes I want to shoot for the moon and do incredibly grandiose things but I think many people like me feel that way. What we don’t often keep in mind, is that the moon isn’t so far away, and incredible things can come in the shape of small, purple flowers.