Several months ago, I offered a reflection on H.D. Thoreau’s Faith in a Seed. I spotted something growing in a planter next to my office door. I made a vow to myself and to you that I would tend to the life entrusted to me. The single, non-descript leaf pulling up through the planter begged for a chance.
I did replant the still to be determined plant life. I relocated it to our back deck where it enjoys much sun. I watered it several times out of necessity, but then nature took over. The sapling has happily sprouted and resprouted itself several times since June. Old leaves fade and die away. New leaves appear red and then green with a few days of sun. I still don’t know what it is. I don’t need to know.
It has survived. It lives.
I share a sense of pride in this accomplishment. I have killed too many innocent house plants, tomato plants, green been plants…you get the picture. This lonely sentinel proves that life can endure even a natural born plant killer like myself. I take no credit for this life. I did not create the life that cycles within and around it. I will take credit for giving it a better environment than the one in which it started.
I don’t want to minimize this. Maybe that it the best we can do…create a better environment, create a better situation, create a better climate. Not all environments are hospitable for life. Not all situations allow for growth. Not all climates allow for a thing to thrive—even a thing as simple as a random seed growing in a planter. All life requires the right conditions to flourish.
We are no different.
How do we chart our progress? Kids are easy. They grow. They learn to crawl, walk, talk, play games, read, write, talk back, eye roll, slam doors, become human again, share feelings, help do dishes, and eventually spawn their own family unit [this is the Kerry Krauss Stages of Development. Erickson’s might be more scientific].
Adults are trickier. At 50, my milestones include a colonoscopy and senior discounts at Culver’s because kids don’t know how old I am. My career does not hold lofty goals with which to measure success or chart progress. My family does not depend upon house, car, or clothing for status. How will I know when I’ve ‘made it’? What does success look like?
One day I will transplant this life. I will release it back to the wild. In twenty years I will come back to chart its growth and my accomplishment. It might seem a strange measurement for progress. You gauge your progress your way and I will gauge my progress my way. I prefer long, multi-step projects that have no clear beginning and no clear ending. To give a thing a chance—a first chance, a second chance—is a gift of grace and that feels like progress to me.
I love you.
I need you.
I hope for you.
Please be safe.