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Lessons from Growing Things

By Shannon Harper

container graden in a courtyard

This past spring I joined a trend. I’d like to say I don’t get sucked into fads but I must admit, I’m susceptible. My dusty scrapbooking collection is proof. But last spring was different right? We were all swept, unwillingly, into a global experience of such magnitude it was bound to affect our interconnected brain synapses, signaling to each other through quarantine walls. Or maybe it was the planet itself calling out to us to reciprocate her nurturing, healing care. Or maybe it was just all those plant TikToks. Either way, I got the message loud and clear, evidently like thousands of others, that I needed to start growing things. Lots of things.

It’s not that I didn’t appreciate growing things before. But my work schedule means I am away from home most of the summer, sometimes whole months at a time. Not really conducive for having a garden or even houseplants that can’t survive the occasional missed watering. But when my life and schedule were interrupted I suddenly had time on my hands and a fierce desire to fill my world with living, growing things that don’t talk back and don’t eat all my food! It started with culinary and medicinal herbs on the patio and quickly expanded to houseplants I picked up at the grocery store. It only got worse when I discovered plant swaps on Facebook and the local nursery opened. My collection grew to 50 plants and counting. We were all - me, the plants, the squirrels eating the plants - living our best lives.

container garden on a desk in front of a bookcase

And then fall hit in southern Ohio and I remembered something. I hate winter. The snow and ice and bad drivers and ugly salt covered cars are inconvenient. But what I really loathe about winter is the lack of light, the short days that make me want to climb into bed at 5pm, the oppressive gray sky - it’s all just too much. Seasonal depression hits hard in our house. And our new family members were going to succumb just like the humans.

I was at a crossroads. I loved my growing things. But did I love them enough to invest in grow-lights and timers and humidifiers to keep them thriving through winter? Was I willing to rearrange my already cluttered apartment to make room for the outdoor plants, after I had sprayed and treated them for bugs? Or should I just keep on doing what I was doing and let the casualties fall?

indoor container garden

Turns out if TikTok gets you into a pickle, Youtube can help get you out. I found a down-to earth, frugal Youtuber who spoke to my heart: “I just want to keep my plants alive! I don’t care if they don’t put out new growth or flowers, I’m not trying to recreate summer in my house, I just want my plants to stop dying!” And like that it all came into focus. Spring is going to come, sooner or later. I just needed to maintain and sustain my growing things for a period, while they are naturally dormant anyway. And with just a minimum of effort (and yes, a couple grow lights), my plants wouldn’t just survive, they would be stronger than if I had done nothing. They would be reserving their energy, ready to bloom, shoot, creep and climb all over the place when the time came.

I know the end of the pandemic isn’t as guaranteed as spring. And certainly the end of systemic racism, police brutality, climate change and facism isn’t going to come about while we’re all hibernating and burrowing away from the cold. But the gathering of strength and the dreaming of what we could be is just as important as the becoming itself. May we recognize the times when we just need to be sustained and cared for, so we are ready to burst forth when the moment calls.

About the Author

Shannon Harper

Shannon Harper has been working with the Central East Region since the Fall of 2016. In her role as Youth and Young Adult Ministries Specialist she supports regional and national youth and emerging adult programming as well as advising and resourcing congregations.

For more information contact cer@uua.org.