Friday, July 16, 2010


*Note: This post has nothing to do with the Grateful Dead. Not that there's anything wrong with them.

I was outside this morning watering and dead-heading flowers. Well, specifically, petunias in my window boxes. I have two different shades of purple in three long window boxes outside my dining room window, plus a couple of odd, spiky, daisy-like flowers which some garden store bestowed upon Beloved as a token of their appreciation for her business.

I know I've talked a lot in the past (other springs and summers) about planting, and gardening, but you know what? I'm such a fraud. Four years ago (?) I asked my then neighbor ALG (Adorable Landscaping Guy) whether I could just tear out my grass and put in flowering plants. I hate, loath, despise and abominate grass. It is anathema to me. Why? Why grass? Why water and cultivate and care for something whose sole purpose, in my neighborhood at least, is to cut it to an even length, not allowing the plant to do what it wants to do according to its nature? Makes NO sense to me.

ALG said, sure! Why not? So, we did. I remember him moving my ancient rhododendrons around on the Fourth of July that year, while we huddled inside, hiding from a pouring rain. The first year it looked much like a lunar landscape: occasional tiny plants and vast expanses of mulch. And rhododendrons, one of which, after moved, took on a distinctly Japanese landscaping appearance, growing as it had into a long trunk and wide, shallow canopy.

Year by year the flowers have filled in and thickened.... no thanks to me. I feed them, never. I weed-- well, close to never. I water only sporadically. (The last time I'd watered before today was last week, when I did so daily out of sheer Christian compassion for all living things in the midst of our wicked heat wave).

There is one patch of land- well, two, bordering my driveway-- for which I do have complete responsibility, however. Where I plant my annuals (though I am sneaking some perennials in there, too-- hello Lavender! I don't care that one of your mystical functions is to repel romance. You are staying!). And-- my windowboxes. And, I don't know, this morning after Beloved had gone on her way, while Petra was still sleeping, and before I had to shower and get me out of here, I found myself, not only watering everything (windowboxes, side-planters, driveway flowers, and vast landscape of perennials), but also, dead-heading my petunias. But only my petunias. The foxglove is going to have to wait.

As I was dead-heading, I noticed, not for the first time, that sometimes it is hard to tell the difference between the blossoms that are past and dead, and those that are just coming-- this is mostly a petunia phenomenon, I think. My experience is limited. I have learned to touch the suspect blossoms gently. Those that are fresh and coming are firm, rubbery and cool. Those that are spent are like tissue and often break away before I have a chance to pinch them off.

I thought about the things I'd like to dead-head from my life. Ways of spending time. Things others (ahem, Beloved) might think are tissue, pinch-'em off things, but which I feel have some value to me-- I can feel the coolness of budding life in them. And they have to be allowed to grow.

Church is the same. We so often look at programs and wonder: dead? Or alive? And sometimes it is very, very hard to call it.

I would like to dead-head the following things from my life:

Compulsive behaviors of all types (this includes, but is not limited to, certain ways of using the internet, food-- even healthy food!-- and even my relationship with Beloved.

Whoa, Nellie, I did NOT say I want to dead-head my relationship with Beloved. But there are ways I use that relationship-- ways in which I am not my healthiest self, but am, instead, needy, compulsive, and immature-- those are the things I want to go.

I heard in a pastor training session a couple of months ago that in every relationship, one person is a pursuer and one is a flee-er. Me: Pursuer. Beloved: Flee-er. (Also, Ex: Flee-er. Clearly.) In the training (which was led by a pastor who is also a psychotherapist) the suggestion was made that we ought to attempt to act in the opposite way of our natural tendency. In other words, if you are a pursuer, well, don't flee, necessarily, but at least back off. Don't crowd, overwhelm or otherwise smother your loved one. If you are a flee-er-- well, try to hang in there. Try not to run when things get tough and all your instincts are telling you to go.

I have been trying to practice this in little tiny ways. The other night I had planned to see Beloved-- just hanging out at her place, after a meeting at work. But I had things at home I needed to tend to. But all my instincts tell me: See her if you can! Don't miss an opportunityfortogetherness!!! But I chose, instead, to go home. To tend to what needed my attention. To speak to her briefly on the phone ('cause, you know, I'm crazy about her and all). But not to smother. I think it was a good thing. Pursuing relentlessly: trying to deadhead it. Just a bit. I think we will be a healthier "plant" in the end.

OK, I lied. Enjoy!


MaineCelt said...

Oh, I loved this post! I may be a farmer, but I have trouble with flowers myself. They're always a postscript, or something I'll get to "when the important work is done." Guess what: the important work is never done. The only flowers we have are perennials that show up in spite of, not because of, my efforts.

You're right about deadheading-- the same applies for daylilies too. And I can think of a few things in my life I'd like to tidily twist off their stems...

Songbird said...

I wonder if I have any relationships that don't need that treatment...

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that the fleer/pursuer thing isn't always constant - I can be either with different people, and sometime start out as one and end up as the other. I think this is most likely very common. It's not as simple a concept as your friend expressed it, but I do think it rings very true. Thanks for sharing it.