Saturday, 12 June 2010

A pot-induced epiphany

It's not what you think. The pot I'm talking about is a cylindrical container, made of terracotta. Beside it was a sagging pelargonium, desperately in need of repotting. But I've been struggling with my health, one-step-forward-one-step-back, and I was more preoccupied with the question, "Why me?" than the fate of my potted plants. I suspect the plants have been asking themselves the same thing.

The good thing about being a human being (as opposed to a potted plant) is that beyond the instinct to survive, we also have in our minds a desire for pleasure, an ambition to thrive, a greed for life, and a fear of death. I don't think plants and animals really fear death. Their instinct to survive is just that: an instinct. They will fight for their survival, they will push their roots inbetween paving stones or attack animals larger than themselves, or defend their offspring at the risk of death. But when death comes, it just comes, and they accept it. Unlike us, they don't expend their energy worrying about how and when they will die, or how to avoid - or at least postpone - it.

We humans, though, do. I think, more than anything else, it's that fear that keeps us from giving up. So even on the mornings when just getting out of bed and brushing my teeth is a huge effort, I make myself do it. I don't always succeed, and sometimes, brushing my teeth is the only achievement I can claim for the day. But I have to keep trying, and fighting against the internal voices that tell me the effort isn't enough, that it's too slow or too insignificant. I keep trying, and eventually it's TWO-steps-forward-one-step-back. Soon it will be one step at a time, always forward, maybe an occasional stumble or pause. Then it will be one hour at a time. Then one day at a time. Which, as any recovering member of those 12-step programmes will tell you, is the only way to take it.

Which brings me back to my pot-induced epiphany. This morning, I finally got down to potting that poor pelargonium. Now, I talk to my plants when I tend to them. And as I did, I suddenly had a sense of God as the gardener, and myself as a plant in His/Her Garden.

I pried the soil loose around the roots with a tool. Sometimes

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