Uprooted the family. Recent transplant to town. Thriving in her native habitat. Branching out into new arenas. Deep roots in the community. Talent in full flower. A real late bloomer. Cultivating new opportunities. The idea was dying on the vine. Weeding out the unnecessary. Planting a seed for the future. A fruitful endeavor. The time was ripe. So many metaphors from gardens describe our personal and professional lives.
I heard one last year that struck me: bloom where you are planted. At first glance this makes sense. Of course we must attempt to thrive no matter what the circumstances are.
As I investigate my gardens this spring, though, I doubt the wisdom of this advice. Environments change. A tree grows and what was a sunny spot is now shady. I know that the shasta daisies that had freely bloomed there will be struggling to survive. Once I move them, their blooms will return. A tree gets cut down and what was shady is now sunny. A thriving rhododendron now shows signs of stress, its normally glossy leaves curled and brown. It’s hard work to move it, but soon it will spread out and glow again.
Plants also outlive their time in a certain spot. A beautiful peach colored lily looks meager and frustrated. I need to dig it up, split it and transplant it into another area. The blooms will return even bigger than before. A coreopsis is choking itself and the plants around it. The soil where it is planted has become as hard as rock. Tough to dig it up, but I can find a better place for it. It’ll be scrawny for a while, but then become the lovely plant it is capable of being.
I’m in a new garden now, having left Harvard to concentrate on my coaching and consulting. I feel on the surface of life; my root system hasn’t fully developed yet. Yet I also sense the new blossoms starting to bud. Recently, I have facilitated several of the same workshops that I’ve done for years prior to leaving Boston. I feel completely different, as if I’m in new soil, new sunshine, trimmed and pruned, already spreading new leaves. I have a different energy. Cleaner, less distracted, more creative.
As I write, I am thinking about the artists I know who are just leaving their graduate studies to begin their professional lives. The decision of what city to move to looms large. My advice is not only bloom where you are planted, but this: plant yourself where you will bloom. Take note of what’s around you and understand who you have become — that’s just good gardening. And if circumstance and experience give you solid data about a change in your environment or your self, you haven’t made a mistake if you need to try something different. You are a good gardener.
“Our lived lives might become a protracted mourning for, or an endless trauma about, the lives we were unable to live,” writes Adam Phillips in Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life. We could all dwell on past flowers that never got to bloom. But I’d rather think about actual gardening. Bloom where you are planted doesn’t always work in the natural world. There is too much variation in the environment. Plants need the correct amount of light, water and soil sustenance. Plants need to be pruned. Plants need to be divided, made smaller, cut back. So do we. Keep looking at the garden, inspecting the flowers, assessing their beauty and nature. Then plant yourself where you will bloom.