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  • Writer's pictureEileen Mills

The Causes At Hand

"When we look at things like a flower, a table, or a house, we think that a house has to be made by someone in order to be there. Our tendency is to look for a cause that has given birth to the table. We come to the conclusion that the cause of the house must be the builder: the mason or the carpenter. What is the cause of the table? Who created the table? A carpenter. Who is the creator of the flower? Is it the earth or the farmer or the gardener?
The gardener is only one of the causes. There must be soil, the sunshine, the cloud, the compost, the seed and many, many other things. If you look deeply, you will see that the whole cosmos has come together in order to help the flower to manifest."
-Thich Nhat Hanh

I would not hesitate to say, one of my favorite things about gardening is relaying it to other, more philosophical aspects of life. With this particular quote, it allows us to recognize that at any given moment, there are innumerable causes at hand leading to whatever is with us and around us to happen. With gardening, I feel great pleasure in knowing that I am one of the causes of making my plants grow and my flowers bloom. However, there is also that sense of humility in knowing that although I do my part, it remains that it is indeed just that, only a part in the process.

The process of cause and effect is as noticeable with plants as with anything, but especially when one sees plants individually. When hand selecting plants for my garden, I look closely at each one. I can stand by the same flat of petunias for five minutes before choosing the one that will be mine. I notice which ones are leggy, who is thirsty, and who is so root bound it is doing its best to break free out of its pot. When it comes to perennials, I pay attention to container size versus proportion to the plant within it; at no fault of the grower or garden center, sometimes you're just paying for dirt. As for houseplants, I often peruse the aisles of the sick and needy, knowing that if I just change their circumstances, (their causes) I can nurse it back into shape in no time. I look at each plant individually and think to myself, "what are the causes of its growth or lack there of? What role can I play in its life as the gardener?" This is why unless you are a plant lover too, you probably don't want to go shopping with me...I take forever!

As for causes, I believe it's important to remember that there are always external ones out of our control; a lesson with gardening and most certainly with life. I can't tell you how many times I've heard something along the lines of, "I wish I could grow a garden, but I just don't have a green thumb."NOT TRUE! For those of you that fall victim to this way of thinking, please vow to yourself now to recognize that this thought is simply false. There are causes at hand for why your plant didn't survive. The majority of plant fatalities are due to lack of knowledge. This is not a brown thumb, this is just not knowing what is needed. I used to have a tendency to over salt meals. I didn't give up and decide I was a horrible cook. I read a book that enlightened me to the fact that all salt dissolves at a different rate, so that when I salted with a larger granular and tasted it immediately it hadn't had a chance to dissipate, causing me to over salt the dish. The moral of the story is if your plant dies, don't give up. Even if you feel like you are the sole cause for its demise, you are not. More often than not, it has to do with water or sunlight - too much or too little. Do not label yourself as a lost cause simply because you didn't know. Read books, ask questions, educate yourself and try again.

I am about to go out into the garden and on with my day. I am going to try to remember that I am playing a role as a cause in every part of the effects of the day. Whether it's deadheading an annual to encourage growth (yay!) or a hasty response I give to my teenager when I am wiped out that changes his or her look for the rest of the night, (boo!) I will try my best to stay cognizant to the fact that I am a cause to all of my surroundings.

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