Big Garden

In March 2006, we visited a large beautiful garden in Chiang Rai, Thailand—it was wonderful and refreshing to stand in awe of the mature plants! There’s little to do to tend the garden except for watering, for it is already mature and complete. Most people want to lounge in the Big Garden and take pictures, for its maturity and colors capture one’s awe.

Behind the big garden was a nursery—it was small and out of public sight and few were taking pictures. Workers sat on low benches, and with tongs were pinching off tiny pieces of plant and placing selected pieces into tiny bottles. The closed bottles became terrariums (miniature greenhouses) for the cuttings to take root. It took months for even a few tiny roots to grow and even more months for a good enough root system for the plants to leave the bottle and to be rooted in tiny pockets of dirt in a Styrofoam form. And still later, the plants would be transplanted to tiny plastic pots, then to small clay pots…and gradually to bigger clay pots. I’m sure it took years for the tiny clipping to flower and to be planted into the big garden.

People give greater attention and admiration to the Big Garden, using flowering words. Few want to learn the skill needed in the nursery to work with tiny pieces—pieces that wouldn’t even know what a root was, much less able to understand the meaning of a flower. Each cutting knew nothing about a root! Not even aware of a leaf! And never heard of a flower! It takes great patience in starting from the beginning. If the nursery worker quits, the young plant will never have a chance at knowing that a big garden even exists, much less what one looks like.

We often ask—‘Who will cut the harvest?’ But we should start with the question—‘Who will start the seedling or the tiny cutting, to patiently teach from the beginning, so that the plant becomes ready for the harvest?’ The harvest is a fun community time. Individually placing the cutting in one bottle at a time is lonely work.

Years ago (actually, in 2003), I planted a perennial garden by the back patio of the old farm house (someday to be ‘our’ old farm house to fix up--but we ended up demolishing it and building a new house). Annually, I miss seeing my garden. Friends send me pictures, but I miss being near my Big Garden. I visit occasionally, but someday I hope to live by my garden. [And now I have to start over!]

I know some people who left the nursery early and went back to their garden…I don’t know why! And yet, I do know why. It’s easier! It’s not so lonely! And it’s already mature—just needs a little watering and some weed pulling and a little cultivation. And people take pictures daily and commune with one another, and everyone knows what a root is and what a flower and leaf are. There’s not much pain-staking teaching and explanation and tender-loving-care needed, for people’s knowledge is mature enough that no one needs to start in the beginning.

Sayang (Filipino word for ‘too bad!’) to workers who leave when they’ve learned the skill of the nursery and the beauty of the work along the way, for they will never view the flowering plants, except in their own garden. Perhaps a few never really learn the skill of the nursery and always desire the language of the big garden, for nursery work is a skill to be learned. But for those who stay the long haul—they will not only pick beautiful flowers, but they will bask in the scent of the roses and the tall growth of the flowering shrubs and the shade of the flowering trees, and they will take lots of pictures and will receive rewards for their nursery skills, for great is their reward in the final Big Garden.

This is my Word Picture for the day.

Elaine


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