Sunday, September 12, 2010

Survivor Lessons

Last weekend I was puttering around the garden, doing all the usual things, pulling weeds, deadheading roses, sobbing over some drought-stricken perennials, and then, stumbling dehydrated up the cement stairs from the back garden beds, I came unexpectedly face to face with a shining example of eternal truth.  The truth that, as said best by a character in the now ancient movie classic Jurassic Park, "Life always finds a way."

Growing in a quarter-inch deep deposit of wind-blown organic debris, surrounded below, and to three sides by limestone or cement, exposed to the burning southwestern sun, stood a small volunteer lavender plant in perfect health.  Never mind that we hadn't seen any appreciable rain for a month, never mind not a sprinkle for a week, this little baby plant had germinated and grown on nothing but air, limestone, and a little organic dust.  About one and one-half inch tall and wide, its entire time on this planet must have been as precarious as a trapeze artist without a net.  One wrong step by a dog, a too-forceful gust of hot wind, a wandering herbivore, and the time of this plant would have been over. 

There are many lessons here for all of us, lessons both of gardening and of how to live our lives.  I'm sure that others can take their own thoughts from the image above, but I, for one, was struck first by this blatant demonstration about wants and needs; that we must, for our own sakes, find an environment that contains everything needed to prosper, including shelter, moisture, food and sunlight.  And yet the best survivors don't really ask or expect much more than that, as this little plant was telling me.  Lavender is surely adapted well to the Kansas climate, as many Mediterranean plants are, but scratching out a living on my cement steps was not something I would have predicted for it.

The little trooper also shows us a lesson about going with the flow. I don't know how long it has been growing, probably no more than a few weeks, but it started life in the middle of the hottest, driest days of summer and then found the strength and moisture, from dew, from translocation through the concrete, or from the very air, to keep growing. It scoffed at the burning sun and the 110 temperatures. It held fast to the rock despite the searing Kansas summer winds. It protected itself by drawing around it the little fuzzy gray-green coat common in lavenders.

Can we be as strong, we gardeners, we humans?  To grow without over-ambitious expectations, to survive in the face of adversity, to cling to the wonder of life? Are we all ready to take the chance, to take the leap of our lives and then to hang on with all our God-given gifts and just be thankful for the sunlight?  I suppose, for my little lavender friend and for each of us, that time will give us our answer.    


  1. Love it! Don't you just love when life's lessons are actually seen and witnessed right before us? What a strong little lavender that both rejected and defied all limitations and showed determination to thrive anyway! Woo-hoo! So many lessons to be learned from that example. Thank you so much for posting that.

  2. Very touching and thought provoking post. I hope you save the little guy since perhaps this is why he positioned himself as such. Hey, you never know.

  3. Thanks for the comments. Since the lavenders are borderline hardy in this area I'm pretty sure a cold winter on the concrete will get him, so I'm going to have to move him. But I'm afraid right now to move him...darned if I do, darned if I don't.

  4. Amazing post. And good luck with the move.

  5. And most aggravatingly, if you'd been trying to grow the lavender from seed it would have refused to germinate or succumbed to some fungal disease.

    Enjoyed your post a lot. Gean

  6. LOL,yep, I've tried to grow it from seed. Must have been too nice to it before.


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