Leaning into the Light

OLIVE HANNA

Summer mornings are best enjoyed in a warm sunny garden. Add a cup of coffee and, for me, it feels like heaven. Sipping my way along the flower beds, I feel like a detective searching for evidence the perennials have made it through another winter. By mid-May, once the garden outline reappears, I happily settle into a feeling of relief and renewed expectation.

By then, I have a fair idea what to include on my list for the garden center: a combination of easy care annuals and some new perennials, to keep things interesting. Magically, the sun, rain and mother nature’s hand, over many days together, bring forth a returning masterpiece in every bloom. But even beautiful flowers have their needs and wants.

Having spent many hours gardening over the years, I have noticed a correlation between plants and people’s behaviour. Plants, like people, do best in an environment that meets their needs; or adapt to where they live, losing something of their personality and beauty. One plant in particular comes to mind. A dark pink peony relocated to the wettest part of the garden one fall; and the following spring, it grew small and flowerless. It got me thinking. Was it in protest against being moved or simply in response to its unhappy lot?

To be honest, I didn’t exactly know what to do. Simply ignore the feeble specimen? Uproot and plant it somewhere else, or try some other approach? I decided patience and faith was the best option. Thereafter, for three years the peony returned taller and more abundant than the year before. Its large pink blooms and glossy green leaves in the corner of the garden it then graced demanded admiration, much more than a momentary glance. How glad I was I had left the plant in charge of growing itself, with my support of course.

Now into our second year of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people, including myself, have felt a bit fragile at times due to the disruption and uncertainties in our day to day lives. Not so for the proud peony, looking robust and healthy enough for me to take a couple of cuttings for propagation. I made my way into the garden and stood under a tree looking down at the plant, trying to decide how best to proceed.

Casually turning my head sideways, I noticed a hosta plant about ten feet away; and immediately became aware of something marvelous. Its purple flowers were leaning towards the light. The moment froze. I thought, “That plant is reaching and bending for what it needs to stay alive and grow. It’s leaning into the light and changing its shape, yet nothing is missing.” Its green shiny leaves were lush and its flowers plentiful. For sure its shape was different, not as one would expect. Yet it was complete in every respect – except for its bent flowers which normally stood erect.

From my position on the lawn, the bending was less noticeable than when viewed from under the trees. It made me think of how people change when they go through a tough time in their life. When their needs are not being met, they hide their sadness behind happy faces. They may seem normal, but you notice something’s not quite right, so you sit a little longer and become aware of the strain in their voice or their less joyful energy, of them bending towards a perceived solace in your presence. They lean into the light of your comfort. They feel better just being with you. Because you care.

The hosta figured out how to reach the sunlight all on its own. My part was just to trim the tree and invite the light.

I made a short video for my family and friends: of climbing roses like a red waterfall cascading from the side of my house, of a robin’s nest, empty of four blue eggs, hidden under a pink Clematis – my way of trimming the tree and inviting the light, of saying, “I’m thinking of you. I hope you’re well. I hope this makes you happy. Remember, when things get hard, lean into the light of the things you need and want. And what’s already inside you too.”

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