Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.

Date: Fri, 11 May 2001 07:23:59 -0400 (EDT)
Random Thought: Garden Smarts/Teach Smarts

Nice walk. The few silent, alone minutes of this dawning morning felt like Keats' urn, a still unravished bride of quietness. I'm back up to four eleven minute miles. Two more to go. I glided along, in the groove, knowing I was going to hit that milestone. Thank goodness for glucosamine. Anyway, strange thinking was happening. My focus was not on the walk. I knew I wasn't getting that sense of satisfaction from the walk itself. I was thinking about the weeks and weeks of slow, patient, hard rebuilding and reconditioning after a painful flare-up in my left leg forced me to ease up and cut back to a mile walk. I was thinking about the tough mornings, of the mornings my amgelic barracks sergeant grounded me, of the mornings I walked through both the darkness and the dark aches when I had an easy excuse to ease off. My joy and satisfaction and sense of accomplishment was rooted in the "what it took" journey, in overcoming the obstacles, usually unseen and unknown to all but me, to get to this point. It didn't happen by itself.

Curiously, as I cooled off, I had the same feeling as I walked through my blossoming flower garden this morning. It's an emerging rainbow of color and smells and movements: purple heather, African daisies, trumpeting amaryllis, white Shastas, purple echinecea, lush plantation lilies, day lilies in all size and shapes and colors, wild yellow coreopsis, majestic roses, dainty white beards, varieties of rudebeckia, hordes of caladiums with their leafy collages, pink pineapple geraniums, mountain petunias, veined wandering Jew.....

And yet, in this "birth of spring," I was thinking of what some might call the ruins of winter. Weird isn't it. In the midst of clusters of lush green I saw images of regal lilies hanging limp and lifeless appeared. The vibrancy of the amaryllis and day lilies recalled a chilly time when they were shriveled and browned and drooping and saddened. The emerging pallets of glorious color set off dancing images of bare rose spines, denuded tree branches, blackened and colorless vines, bland woody sticks.

I started once again to see some universal smarts at work in both my garden and my teaching. There are lessons are in my garden that I can take into the classroom and from the classroom into the garden. Here are a few that quickly come to mind:

1. In the middle of the "death" of winter, a true gardener, like a teacher, believes in the coming of spring's and summer's "birth" and "life." A true gardener has to know that winter is not, as someone put it, a seasonal shank. It is not a period of death. It is an interlude. It is a time of rest. It is a time of preparation. It is a time of potential. It is a time of dormancy when the inner energy is there waiting to be brought forth in a burst of glory. A true gardener, like a teacher, in the midst of cold has faith in the coming of warmth. In the depth of winter, a true gardener, like a teacher, thinks and feels spring and summer.

2. If my garden is beautiful, it is because I've developed techniques, habits, routines--and above all a spirit--necessary to make it beautiful. There really is no such thing as a low or no maintenance flower garden. I can't just toss out a few seeds, go ahead, and do whatever I want to do, whenever I want to, and then expect to come back to find a beautiful, garden. I have to get "down and dirty." I have meet each plant on its terms. I have to adapt to each plant's unique needs. I have to be one person and many gardeners at the same time. I have to plant, nourish, water, cultivate, tend, care, trim, prune, dead-head, clean, protect if I'm going to enjoy the garden. There is no secret about gardening: experiment, lots of hard work, lots of time, lots of effort, lots of preparation, lots of tools, many mistakes, tons of flexibility, much learning from failure, perseverance, care, love, faith, endurance.

3. No beautiful garden can be created without enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is the most powerful force at work in a garden, enthusiasm not so much for my gardening as for the flowers in the garden. When I am enthused about the garden, about each flower in the garden, I garden with all my might. I am energetic, committed, optimistic, hopeful, and even spiritual about it. You see, the blooming flowers are not the key to happy gardening. Happy gardening is the key to a beautiful garden. If I am a happy gardener, I will do whatever it takes to create a beautiful garden.

4. No flower is a mistake. Each is a miraculous creation of nature. Each is unique. That attitude about gardening and towards each flower in the garden is the dictator of the outcome of my gardening. A beautiful garden is a collection of individual flowers. I plant seed. There is no way of knowing when, where, how, and if those seeds will flower. I tend them with a faith each is capable of flowering and will flower. Tending each flower, one at a time, is what makes the garden beautiful. So, if my garden is beautiful it is because I tend each flower with equal devotion, dedication, commitment, and love.

6. My spirit is not just one thing that goes into my gardening. It is everything. It determines what I see and what I ignore. It lets me work at my play and play at my work. I can alter my garden merely by altering my attitude. If I have less than a conscious commitment to my flowers, I have an unconscious commitment to something else and am somewhere else. So, I have to be careful in my garden, for I alter it and it alters me every time I enter. Every flower offers me the choice to expand my vision or smother my dream.

7. The key to a beautiful garden is asking the right questions of myself. Before I garden in the garden, I have to garden within myself. I am the first flower in my garden. I am the hardest to cultivate and to bring to full bloom. You see, how I see the garden, is a confession of my character. What I am works the garden far more than what I say. My inner spirit abducts what I think and feel and do. The definition of a beautiful garden comes, must come, only comes, from deep within. And, the desire to reach those depths must come deep from within as well.

8. Most important: The garden can only become what I dream about. If I want a beautiful garden, I don't just plant and tend to flowers. If I want a beautiful garden, I have to long for the life-giving spirit of the garden.

         Make it a good day.


         Louis Schmier      
         Department of History
         Valdosta State University
         Valdosta, GA  31698                 /~\        /\ /\
         912-333-5947              /^\      /     \    /  /~\  \   /~\__/\
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                        -_~    /  "If you want to climb mountains,   \ /^\
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