fear, garden, sabbatical, seasons

Layers of Fear

For those following along, you know I love tulips. So much so, that I planted a lot of bulbs during my sabbatical in the fall of 2016. Last year very few came up and I attributed that to the strange weather we had that winter. I was outside cleaning flowerbeds in January. That is not normal around here. This year I was expecting to see all kinds of tulips popping up everywhere. Not the case.

I suspect some were dug up by squirrels. I suspect others rotted in the ground. Out of all the tulip bulbs I planted, I have four blossoming tulips this spring. Not exactly what I had in mind!

Yesterday I decided to work on the flowerbed in front of our house. I saw some of that weed paper in the mulch – you know the stuff people put down to keep the weeds out. I wanted to pull all of that out. So I started pulling… not just one layer, not just two layers, but three layers of paper. And, under that was another layer of black trash bags. Four layers of protection from weeds. It was horrible. I’d have to move a layer of mulch out of the way to get another layer of paper pulled up. Back and forth with the mulch. Pulling and yanking of paper.

When I pulled up the second layer four different hosta plants came with it. We always wondered why those hostas never got very big. Now we know why – they were living in a very small layer of soil – their roots couldn’t go down very far because there were more layers of paper and plastic underneath.

When I planted those hostas three years ago, I had to cut through a layer of paper to plant them. Under that paper was dirt, so I didn’t even think to dig deeper to see what else was below. I had no idea how many layers were really there.

No wonder none of those tulip bulbs came up. No wonder that peony start never took root. No wonder those hostas stayed so small.

All because someone was clearly terrified of weeds. And, you know what? All those layers didn’t keep the weeds at bay. Part of the reason I wanted to work on that flowerbed yesterday was to pull weeds. Yes, three layers of paper and one layer of trash bags wasn’t enough to keep the weeds away.

I’m curious about the person who worked on this flowerbed. Why was this person so scared of weeds? This person’s fear resulted in a lot of work – for both of us. Each layer of paper had spikes to hold it down. There’s even a large decorative rock on one section, keeping me from pulling it up (for now!). The grass started to grow over the paper, so when I pull portions of it up, I have sod in my hands. I ask again: why was this person so scared of weeds?

In her attempt to keep out the weeds, she also kept out so much more – so much life. In his attempt to keep out weeds, he created layers and layers of barriers that restricted life.

More flowerbeds with more layers of paper…

I’m not a fan of weeds either, but I love vibrant green leaves and beautiful blossoms more than I dislike weeds. I’m willing to pull weeds now and then if it means I get to see bright colors in my flowerbed.

This person worked so hard to keep out the weeds that other life couldn’t thrive either. With all those layers of protection – those layers of fear – the thing that person wanted to keep out was still there. The weeds found a way to live despite the hard work to keep them out.

There’s still a lot of work to do. More layers to pull up, more mulch to move around. After an hour or so, I was annoyed and tired. I filled a city trash bin full of paper and sod – I filled it full of someone else’s fear. But before I put away my tools I remembered those four small hostas lying there on the ground. I started digging holes – holes that went through the layers of mulch and into the soil – the earth. As I replanted each one I hoped (and maybe said out loud…) that they would grow deep roots, that they would be nourished by access to the fullness of the dirt below.

Those little hostas never gave up even though they were living in poor conditions. They kept coming back year after year, trying to make it work. And they did. But now that all those layers are gone, I wonder what they’ll look like next year, maybe even later this summer? When I removed those layers of fear, I created a whole new healthy place for them to live and thrive.

The huge decorative stone in front still has paper under it.
I think these hostas are happier now!

That’s got me wondering…what layers of fear do I need to remove? I wonder what areas of my life are stifled because I have blocked myself from access to the abundant, life-giving soil beneath me?

Now that I’m aware of that possibility, I’m on the lookout. And you know as soon as I find those layers buried deep, I’ll be pulling them out and dumping them in the trash bin with all those other fears that have no business being in my flowerbeds, among my hostas.





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