A letter to Mother: On Gardening and Being Human

a letter to mother on gardening and being human

This story about belief and human nature and growth is not a story.

Dear Mother,

Here is a lesson you have taught me. Labels are dangerous. Faith is unstable, but work towards a belief will flower like a well-tended garden.

If we do not water that which we wish to grow, then it shall wither and die. All things in life are to be questioned, examined, and understood within the realm of what is the best course of action for the self and the body of people that make up our lives.

All things are but stories, none more true than the other. Prove what you can, and learn from what you have experienced, seen and heard.

God, dragons, wizards, elves; all are tales we have been told from which we must learn.

In the giving of fish and bread to the hungry, to the stealing of a stone to save a friend from their own self destructive nature, no story is without merit. No person’s life is without merit.

You taught me how to tame and tend a garden, and this is what the garden has taught me. We do not live natural lives.

There are places and situations, with pressures that we have neither the capacity to understand nor the language to comprehend. This is not a failing of our own design, but of the nature of the world itself. It does not guide us towards the pursuits that breed joy, fulfillment and self-acceptance. It is tethered to the competitive and physical impulses that lie contrary to intimacy.

We are alien plants placed in a garden, unnatural, and thus without balance. We choke each other in search of the sun. We grow into each other unaware of the space which we take.

We regard difference of ideology and appearance as aberrant, unlike us. We have been taught to love the reflection so much so that any deviation from it must be sinister, lest we assume ourselves no longer to be the paragon of truth.

I recall when I was young and I asked you about god. You told me that there may be a god, but there are many ways to that god, no one way better than the other, for we are all different.

As a child who did not fit in, that idea gave me great comfort. It made me believe that no matter how I pursued a greater understanding of the world, it would not be wrong.

I never believed in god. I made my own – many, in fact. Violent, bestial monsters that reflected the turmoil of a confused child. The shadows of myself I could never – and never will – show you.

In the garden I saw how one must be ruthless. Rip and tear for the greater good. Those plants we have put there for our amusement were never meant to neighbours. So we prune, tie and constrain them so that they will not kill each other and still yield to our aesthetic pleasure.

To tend a garden is to play god. We do this for our pleasure, but we care at the same time. We rejoice at the growth of our plants and mourn their suffering. We cut and saw not out of malice, but because we truly wish those plants under our care to grow to their greatest potential. Though that is a lie. Their potential is often not in accordance to our desire. Our ideal of beauty and acceptability.

Do we wait for others to hack us into shape or do we prune our own branches not to incite the glare of a watchful gardener?

Or do we yield to our nature, and choke those that would take our sun, grow, and claim the light for ourselves?

Perhaps we must uproot; find a new garden in which we need not make such a choice.

I do not have the answers. I uprooted many a plant and did not do so with vitriol or pleasure, for I knew that it was for the greater good. Though it haunts me.

However, we walk to ourselves in the quiet of the night, secateurs in hand, and with a grimace we place the blades upon our branches, squeeze and feel the weight drop from us. They may be people, ideals, beliefs, hopes, dreams, expectations or that which we felt would hinder our further growth.

Sadly, a good gardener knows that you need to take a step back and observe the plant in its totality, from many perspectives, in order to make a wise decision.

Sadly, as people, it is that very thing we lack, and so sorely need.