I'm not the best of gardeners. Oh, I do a lot of gardening, . . . but I don't think I'm really that skillful at it. I have strong ambivalence about using chemicals, and because of that, my roses suffer. Blackspot skips gaily from rose to rose, weakening them so that they have difficulty surviving the winter.
This spring, I still haven't worked up my courage to take inventory of the ones I've lost. It's getting to be late April, I should be out there pruning, and I continue to procrastinate.
I know I'm going to have to make hard decisions about some of them, like the one pictured above. This rose is three years old, but it's never grown more than about ten inches. Yet look at it, struggling to start over. Do I cut away the dead canes, fertilize it, and give it one more year? Or do I dismiss it as a weakling, dig it up—shovel prune it, as my Internet friends say—and start all over in that spot?
Life hand us similarly hard choices. For three years, I struggled with my novel. I couldn't hear the characters speaking in my head. I couldn't figure out how to make the book start in an interesting way. In those three years, I wrote only eight or nine chapters. I was almost ready to give up. Then last year, Michael and I took a writing sabbatical. We went to Florida for the month of March and did nothing but our own creative writing. I took long, long walks on the beach. Suddenly, after two weeks, I heard my characters playing out scenes in my imagination. I could hardly get the words down fast enough. I wrote three chapters in that one month. After we came home, the book continued to flourish. In the year since we came home, I've written another 22 chapters and finished the first draft. The fertilizer of concentrated writing time worked.
Sometimes, however, no matter what we do to save something, we have to give up. I tried for six or seven years to restructure my staff editorial job into something I could manage. I went to four days a week. I decided to plateau and not seek promotion. I made other choices to keep from being caught up in the corporate grind. My employer was wonderful in allowing me to make the changes. In spite of all that effort, the day came when I knew that I would do better as an independent contractor. I wasn't going to be able to meet my goal of staying with the corporation until I reached the age of early retirement. And so I quit.
So the lesson that I'm learning from my garden today is that there are no easy answers. I need to face the difficult task of going out into my yard and evaluating each and every rose bush according to its own merits and its own condition. I'm not looking forward to it, but I know I'll feel better once it's done.