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  • Eileen Mills

The Best Laid Plans



Although John Steinbeck often receives credit for the phrase, "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry;" the actual quote is by the Scottish poet Robert Burns. The line from his 1785 poem, To A Mouse reads: "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men/Gang aft a-gley." The meaning of which reminds us that although we may plan for a particular outcome, more often than not, our plans do not unfold in the ways which we originally intended.


For me, the life and garden analogy seems to fit hand in hand for most any withstanding thought. My garden is a reflection of myself as its is a creative outlet, but more so, by the time and attention I give to it. It is no stretch to see it needs to be weeded and to know that I need some tending to as well. I even seem to take my vitamins along the same schedule as I fertilize the flowers. We wake up together in the spring and definitely unwind in unison come fall. My life is completely intertwined with my garden and anyone passing by my yard can attest to that fact.


Over the years I have learned to take this best laid plans line to heart. I often race home from the nursery as fast as I can with a new "must have" specimen plant, only to walk around for an hour or so looking for the ideal spot to dig its new home. Sometimes this process takes me even longer as I have to design a new space and dig out existing lawn. My husband is never a fan of this move so I usually wait for him to be elsewhere before I commence in the digging. He's on board after the fact, but I've found it works out better if he just comes home to it rather than bears witness to the destruction of our lawn. Then, just when everything is perfect, I plant my precious new find.


I consider myself a knowledgable gardener, one that knows what, where, when, and how to plant. But time and time again I find that, "the perfect spot" is anything but that. I walk by my new plant and watch it struggle, sometimes with light, or soil, or moisture, or sometimes I don't even know what, but it almost shouts out, "move me!" There have been times when I just don't want to believe it, simply because I want it to stay in the spot I so carefully picked. Eventually though, I listen and I move it. I walk around the yard, I find the second perfect spot, (I wait for the husband to leave if it's in the lawn,) and I dig.


The beauty is that as long as you listen, the plant will survive. This is contingent upon your willingness to adjust from your original plan. If you can take yourself out of the equation and choose for the plant, you can uproot it and move it even more than once.


One of the most wonderful things about the garden and about us as human beings is resilience. I am often amazed at how easily a plant (even a well established one with roots far into the earth) is transplanted to a new home. I'm sure many of you have rescued a plant or two from what looks like a resurrection from the dead and been filled with wonder as to how its transformation came about. We hold that same resilience in us. We just have to remember, when things do not go accordingly, that we too have the ability to adapt. Bear in mind though, it may take some digging.



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