What the Garden Has to Say About Failure

The work of late frost.

So, recently, I had an interview. I thought it went well, but there were things of which I was unaware. These things I may speak of in the future, but I’ll say nothing for now. I’ve also made mistakes—like not asking for enough.

I didn’t know that not knowing how much I should be asking for would probably be used against me. But there it is—a very costly lesson I cannot afford. The irony of it almost makes me laugh. Almost.

I have mixed feelings about this job I was trying for. I wanted it. But the old demon of self-doubt was there, whispering in my ear.

“It wouldn’t have mattered.” She says, wrapping choking arms about me. “You couldn’t have done it anyway.” She licks my ear, just for spite. “A writer? Who are we kidding, sweetie? That’s just some old thing you do, nothing serious.”

Evidence of the Late Freeze

I push her away and go into the garden. I wanted this one. No, it isn’t official, but I feel as if I must resign myself to it. I should get used to it so I can start again.

Out in the sunlight, birds are competing for territory. My irises are in bloom—frilled and old fashioned bearded varieties, architectural Siberians, and the gaudy splash of yellow flag. Above them spread the branches of Crepe Myrtle trees, now three years old and as tall as the house.

We had a cold snap late this year. The temperature oozed down into the low thirties during the night, and it killed all but one or two of the brand new leaves on the Crepe Myrtle’s branches. I watched anxiously over the next week.

One thing about my garden: I don’t rear weaklings. Plants grow or they can GTFO. They were doing it quite well for many millions of years without even the assistance of the wind. I see no reason why my garden should follow a different law.

If Crepe Myrtles Were People

Now, we all know that’s not strictly true. I love my garden and every weed, flower, or shrub therein. But I don’t do well with orchids or African violets, exotic cultivars and delicate hybrids. I prefer perennials, natives, and hardy, acculturated varieties.

Crepe myrtles are tough and no-nonsense. Don’t let those frilly clusters of particolored blossom fool you. They’ll take what the weather gives them and flip off a late cold snap with defiance and a few cuss words. They’ve got grit.

You don’t give up until the last little root dies, even if only one of your leaves survives.

If they were humans, they’d be those tough-as-nails women, the sort who clean up nicely. But one should never make the mistake of thinking they’ve left “the hood” behind. It’s there, just beneath the surface. These are the sorts of plants, and people, I prefer.

New Leaves, Who ‘Dis?

It wasn’t long before the withered brown leaves were joined by tiny buds. Almost like a wounded space station, they’d extended the emergency solar cells of the few leaves that survived. Those grew at an extraordinary rate, which allowed the rest of the shiny, red buds studding the branches to take their time.

Now, as I stand in the sun, exchanging looks with the Crepe Myrtles, I am lessoned, schooled.

“You don’t give up just because unexpected crap takes everything from you. As long as you’ve got one leaf, you can start over. You might be tired, taxed, a bit farther behind than everything else. But you are still here, with all your skills intact. Buck up, girlfriend. You didn’t die. You’re just winded.”

And so that’s what I will do. Extend my one leaf to soak up the sun, breathe, and get busy making new leaves.

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