Today I spent the day watching my beans emerge.  Not the whole day, non-stop, I have of course been in the throes of May madness.  Since May 15th, our last frost date, I have been planting, planting, planting, all the tender annuals that I have been collecting from the nurseries over the past few weeks, and all the ones I have been caring for in the basement.  When I went out this morning to get started, I noticed a few beans were cracking the soil.  I planted them last Sunday, but had feared that the birds had gotten them.  By the end of the day the beans were (almost) all up, with their first true leaves unfolding.  Such a miracle, this transformation from hard dry seed to lush green plant.  Such faith needed, to wait patiently (or not) for the natural processes to do their thing.  This week I have been contemplating the similarities between mothering and gardening, and the anticipated appearance of these bean plants struck me as a poetic symbol of that relationship.

Last week while wandering around the internet, looking for other gardeners blogging about kitchen and wildlife gardening, I found a great website (but sadly forgot to bookmark it!).  The blogger had just had her first baby in December and it made me think about the challenges of mothering and gardening.  And that led me to a revelation about what the garden has to teach mothers.  Mothering and gardening both require patience and faith, to allow the being in question, whether plant or child, to develop naturally.  Most of our time is spent waiting and observing, filling our time cleaning up or feeding.  But then comes the moment when a corrective action needs to be taken, a branch pruned, floppy stems tied up, a bandaid applied to a cut knee, hurt feelings assuaged, and we have to be present, to attend to the need for nurturance.  To allow the natural processes to unfold, while being prepared for a timely intervention to coax into a more civilized form.

Now obviously the child needs constant care, whereas the garden can take care of itself.  If something goes wrong in the garden, a dry spell or an aphid infestation, and you cannot tend to it, the garden will survive.  Not so much with the child, especially a small one. But still, there are some powerful similarities.  Working with the natural form and inclinations, patiently guiding their development.  Adapting to the conditions that are presented to you, whether it is a child’s personality or a certain soil type.  Ultimately you are on your own, because no one has ever been in this time and place, with these conditions, before.  You have to develop your own philosophy and your own methods for coping with the vagaries of your situation.  You can only learn how to garden, and to mother, by doing it.  You have to get your hands dirty, you have to make mistakes, in order to learn how to do it.  At first it may seem daunting, overwhelming even, but at a certain point, you somehow know the right thing to do at the right moment.  And all the while you experience the joy of nurturing something, or someone, inherently beautiful.