My wind chimes are silent, but there’s a chorus in calls of the birds accompanied by the syncopated rain drops dipping from the trees and the roof. When my father visited recently, he identified the call of a male cardinal. As I type to the irregular beat, seven unique squawks and whistles sing with me and keep me company in the calming dusk of a rainy weekday night. Over the steps of my porch, a tiny solar lantern casts a dim light on the newest additions to my garden – scalloped, red bricks totaling 65 edging its sides.
My friend Kyle responded to my need for guidance in last week’s post, assuming the role in my gardening that Mrs. Shelton held in my writing. After assessing my little lot and measuring and planning, he helped me devise a strategy to redeem my garden. Our mission was to raise the garden, put in bricks to edge, weed out the clovers and vines, remove the plants, lay down garden soil, replant and enrich with plant food, top off with brown mulch, and build a side garden where the sun would reach. The undertaking would be expensive, time-consuming, and physically demanding.
One day I came home to a host of seeds in my mailbox with a note of encouragement from Kyle about the venture we would endeavor upon come Saturday. And I needed it. Given my track record with gardening thus far, one simple thought threatened, echoing in my mind: would it be worth the effort, or would I invest money, time, and labor to come to the same inevitable end of summer with a wealth of dead plants? I propped Kyle’s seeds up against the empty vase on my dining room table; he had answered my doubts by planting seeds of hope with his words before we ever picked up a shovel.
On our drive to purchase the materials, sensing my apprehension, Kyle reminded me that this was not supposed to be stressful. I relaxed into our adventure. Seven hours of toil, a few hundred dollars, and three trips to Home Depot saw our mission fulfilled, and as we wiped beads of sweat matted with dirt from our foreheads, the feeling of accomplishment could not be matched. We’d salvaged the flowers we could and planted new ones that I had not tried yet. Standing on the sidewalk taking in the beauty of the fruits of our labor, it occurred to me that it didn’t matter whether or not my garden would thrive after this moment passed. It was sufficient that I had done everything I could up until this moment to foster growth.
My mother recently sponsored an investment in a different kind of growth: she bought me a subscription to an online Christian dating website. Up until then, I never imagined I would be seeking out my potential husband virtually. I’ve been offered 93% of the jobs I’ve applied to after a face-to-face interview and 0% of the jobs I’ve applied to only online. I lament my early twenties when nearly every outing brought me a dating proposal… at school, the gym, even the grocery store. The reality of my thirties denies me those opportunities. Dating co-workers at school is a recipe for disaster, I already met one ex-husband at the gym, and every good-looking man my age at the grocery story is buying baby food and Pampers.
Dismissing the nagging thought that if I can only land a job in person, what would possess me to try and land a husband online, I registered and built my profile. Then came the matches. If the other users are honest, then there really are single, quality, attractive men my age in my general vicinity. Though I receive multiple communications each day, I find myself far pickier than I was ten years ago. Not sure if he wants kids? Delete. Under 5’10”? Delete. Spelling errors? Delete. Lives with his parents? Delete.
I’ve only been at this online dating thing a couple of weeks, but given my track record with dating thus far, one simple thought threatens, echoing in my mind: will it be worth the effort, or would I invest (Mom’s) money, time, and labor to come to the same inevitable end of summer without a potential forever? Kyle’s seeds are in the ground, so once again my empty dining room vase greets me each day, absent cut flowers from my most recent heartbreak. I invested so much of who I was in past relationships only to wind up alone on the front porch of a three-bedroom house whose rooms are absent the life and laughter of the family I long to have.
Wading through online profiles is a great undertaking, and while Kyle listens sympathetically to my humorous attempts at navigating this dating pool, this venture is one I must tackle on my own. I recall his words on Saturday when we were just starting on our endeavor, and I don’t believe this pursuit is meant to be stressful either. My apprehension is well-founded, but it is not beneficial. Like our garden make-over, it’s all about hope. Hope that something beautiful will take root and blossom.
After assessing my life and measuring and planning, I’ve devised a strategy of my own to redeem my romantic future. Just as we raised the garden, putting in bricks to edge it, I’ve built a foundation by setting high expectations in stone. Just as we weeded out the clovers and vines, I’m intentionally ripping out every parasitic entanglement that might hinder my growth in time to come. Just as we laid down garden soil laced with plant food, I’m filling my life with the nutrients needed to foster my growth in time to come: hobbies, friends, family. Just as we added mulch atop the soil, I’m preventing the weeds from resurfacing in my life and protecting myself from exposure by diligently self-correcting. Just as we built a new side garden and planted new seeds, I’m preparing the way for potential options I haven’t tried yet.
I recognize that my mission to unearth a future husband might be expensive, time-consuming, and mentally demanding. But standing on that sidewalk with Kyle admiring the final product and relishing in a sense of accomplishment at our garden make-over now complete, I was unconcerned with the long-term outcomes. It was sufficient that I had done all I could until that moment to foster growth. Why should this adventure be any different?
The garden bed of my love-life is ready for planting. Past tears have seen it watered. Perhaps if I had gardened before my first marriage, I would have had a different set of expectations. My shaded front yard has taught me that not every flower will thrive here, that you have to pay attention to the tags, that you have to be willing to get dirty to make progress, that you often don’t know what will bloom until you take a plunge and plant it, that you have to hope beyond hope for new life, and that you have to keep trying.
And so I’m going to relax and keep pressing “Delete” until I come across a seed of hope that seems worthy of planting. And if that seed doesn’t take root and blossom, I’ll try again. The birds are silent now, and all I hear is the pitter-patter of raindrops around my house. The flowers in my garden, lit by tiny solar lanterns, are grateful for a rainy day, and I am grateful in turn for silver linings.