Emerging From The Dirt
Written By: Devan
“Aren’t those flowers pretty?” my Mom asked as we drove home from school one day.
I glanced over at the shoulder of the road where they’d planted some brightly colored flowers, an assortment.
I shrugged, and my mom frowned.
At that point in my life, it was difficult to find the beauty in anything. Flowers, were, well, just flowers. They were there to “beautify” the city. They didn’t bring me any amount of joy. In fact, very little did. I had been battling mental illness for what felt like my whole life, and at that particular moment I wasn’t sure if I’d grow any older, so I could care less about what was growing on the side of a road.
As the years passed I did grow older, but my internal war waged on. Over time, I bought a few potted plants here and there. I never had too much luck with them, unlike my grandma who seemed to have the green thumb of the family. I didn’t gain any new appreciation for these plants either. Maybe I was just giving up too soon on them, just as I felt like giving up too…
Finally, while desperate for an outlet, I decided to give gardening another whirl. It was summer and I figured it would give me something to look forward to- maybe it would even be therapeutic. However, could I get anything to grow? I bought a number of different seeds: sunflowers, zinnias, and celosia. I also bought some dahlia bulbs. To be honest I had no idea what I was doing, but I planted the seeds and watered them every day. I did not know then what would be awakened within me as I watched as my small patio garden begin to flourish.
My tiny celosia seeds soon became sprouts. My sunflowers came bursting through the surface of the soil, leaving cracks in their wake. How could something so small have that much power? My dahlia even grew from a mere flimsy stick poking out of the dirt into a sturdy stem with lush leaves. I marveled, connecting with this on a deeper level, even making connections with my faith. Maybe if you do have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can move mountains, I thought. Somehow I knew I was witnessing something special. These tiny sproutlings had to emerge through layers of deep, dark dirt in order to breach the surface.
How many times did I feel buried underground, feeling like it was absolutely impossible for me to survive? Yet somehow, I kept going. Then there was that night it was supposed to rain, but it didn’t and my poor parched sunflowers looked on the brink of death. I rushed to water them, watching as dry, crumpled leaves unfurled and the bowed heads again looked toward the sun. They had found their way back to life and also renewed hope in me, too.
Then there were the other miraculous events I witnessed, such as when a plant was wilted and bent over as if it were kneeling in surrender, the victim of some kind of illness or garden pests. It looked as if there was no hope left, but I didn’t give up. Instead, I watered the plant with a special solution and I spoke to it and told it to just “keep growing” and that “one day, you’ll be a beautiful flower.” Perhaps I couldn’t give up on this plant because it was as if I was speaking to myself.
This plant did bounce back and blossom, demonstrating to me that there’s always hope even if you’ve folded in on yourself. A kind word, some nurturing, and encouragement can have long lasting echoes.
There were times when plants didn’t make it, or there were parts of the plant that needed to be removed to allow it to flourish. I had to learn to let go, but realized that just because there were parts that were missing, the plant was not any less whole. Sometimes in my most difficult moments, I’d just go outside and look at my flowers, take a deep breath, and watch as a bumblebee flitted from flower to flower, small but with great purpose. While another might not spare a second glance at the bee, or want to swat it away, I realized it had so much worth, and it also helped me find some worth in myself.
Over the years I've kept gardening. It hasn't always been easy, and some days there still appears to be no reprieve in sight, as the plants wait for some relief when the weather takes a turbulent turn. Rain pelts them so hard that they sag under the weight, but then the sun comes out and they stand again. Harsh winds blow and pots go crashing to the ground, yet their roots keep them grounded.
As I ride out my own storms longing for tranquility to wash over me, I remember I have strong roots, too, and I can stand up against the most torrential of downpours as well. These flowers are such a reflection of me, especially those that didn’t turn out exactly as I expected- a bit rough around the edges, imperfect. In those flowers, I’ve seen myself the most.
“You have a green thumb,” my mother tells me.
Actually, I don’t think that’s the case. I think I’ve just learned to see what perseverance looks like, and what can emerge even in the darkest of places if you don’t give up. Maybe sometimes what comes through is a little wilted, curled up, or just fighting to survive, but there is so much beauty in the struggle.