18 July 2013

La Belle's Hobby Farm: Absence Makes the Plants Grow Taller

Absence is to love what wind is to fire; it extinguishes the small, it inflames the great.
~ Roger de Bussy-Rabutin

upposedly the same can be said of gardens.

I don’t know what it is that makes my garden grow so much while I’m away.  Maybe it feels abandoned and tries to ensure I’ll stay by growing two feet every time I “neglect” it.  Whatever, it is, it sure works!

Remember what my garden looked like before I left for Alaska?  Here’s a reminderWhen I got back last week, the garden looked like this:  

© 2013 Mikaela D’Eigh

© 2013 Mikaela D’Eigh

Cucs! © 2013 Mikaela D’Eigh

© 2013 Mikaela D’Eigh

© 2013 Mikaela D’Eigh
© 2013 Mikaela D’Eigh

Maybe I need to go away more often!  I’ve already picked two regular tomatoes and five cherry tomatoes (pics next week); here’s hoping for more in the coming weeks!

Granted, in these pictures, my tommy toes are falling over.  I immediately re-staked them.  This week, they’ve grown even taller and seem like alien beings!!  A fellow home gardener told me he prunes the tops of his tomato plants to encourage them to grow out rather than up.  But I’ve grown fond of my gentle Tommy Toe giants.  So I just prune the  bottom branches that aren’t getting enough sun.

Seeing how well my green babies are doing after being left to their own devices for over a week, I couldn’t help but think of relationships.  I have said this before, and I will say it many times again I’m sure: balance is the key to happiness.  The virtue is found in the mean, not the extreme. 

There is a certain push and pull that is natural to relationships: spending a lot of time with your loved ones, and then needing some breathing space.  That is what healthy, integrated people do. 

They don’t smother.
They don’t ignore.
They love unconditionally.
They respect boundaries. 

Remember what I touched on earlier this month about boundaries: they provide a sense of safety and a sense of self; two things that are very important in a relationship.  I am not the Borg ~ I do not want to be assimilated!  I rather like me ~ still working on accepting some of my darker corners, but overall, I am pretty darn cool.  So I don’t want to become someone else’s sanitized version of Mikaela.

Now, this doesn’t mean some personal weeding shouldn’t be done. 

If I just let my garden run wild, the weeds would choke off the plants, I would have almost no harvest, and it would be a very ugly space.  Besides actually weeding my garden, I can help my garden weed itself buy planting certain plants together, and by mulching (still haven’t found any organic, non-pesticide ridden mulch).

But when it comes to relationships, buddy, don’t try to tell me how to weed my soul.  You may think you are being helpful, when actually you just come across as holier than thou and an obnoxious insert unprintable word here.  (There.  I just pointed out a weed you need to pull. Ha!)

I don’t know about other personality types, but I am hyper aware of all of my faults and don’t need someone else to point them out to me.  Negative reinforcement works ~ to crush someone’s spirit and bury their positive sense of self.  And if that is someone’s goal, they have some major personality and/or emotional problems that need to be resolved and healed and you need to get out of that person’s orbit for a long while.  The emotional air they breathe is toxic.

Sometimes this “helpfulness” turns into smothering, another way to disrespect and ignore the healthy boundaries.  “But I love him or her!  Surely if they loved me as much as I love them they would want to spend every moment, every thought on me!”

If only I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that, I’d be living in full stocked cabin in Alaska writing full time.

I thought I loved my tomato plants last year by “faithfully” watering (spending an inordinate amount of time with) them for an hour every evening.  They wilted, didn’t grow, and wouldn’t produce any fruit.  Once I left them alone for a couple of days (gave them some reasonable space), they thrived, grew, and produced more tomatoes than I could use by myself.

Even full out extroverts can benefit from being left alone now and then to do their own thing.  But for those of us who are introverts or a mix, we sure as hell need to be left alone now and again.  I find that I seek solitude more often when I’m around emotionally toxic or unhealthily needy people: they drain me dry, and if I’m not careful, guilt me into trying to be someone I am not.  They do this to feel safe and secure, and to ensure that they will not be abandoned.  Ironically, this behavior actually makes me want to run screaming from their presence, never to return.

(In my limited experience, this desperate, grasping/smothering behavior almost always occurs in people who have been abused as children, whether it be sexually, physically, or emotionally, something I’d like to explore further.)

Perhaps this is why I maintain such a deep connection to the land: it teaches me to respect its boundaries, and in return teaches me to respect my own boundaries and those of my loved ones.  It is certainly easier to see what happens if you water, or neglect a garden too much: the plants die before your eyes.  It is more difficult to notice love or respect dying in the heart of a loved one.

This week, let’s give our gardens, and each other, a little room to breathe and grow.  I promise the harvest will be more than you could imagine, a good measure, pressed down and overflowing.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

How is your garden growing?  Does it fare better when you leave it alone for awhile?  What about your personal relationships?  Are you giving your loved ones room to breathe and grow and return to you more alive than when they left?
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