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This broccoliflower plant stands tall, but will produce no veggies this summer.

Jenny, Jenny, quite contrary,

(Please don’t call me Jenny, but yes, I can be rather contrary.)

How does your garden grow?

Lovers of nursery rhymes will know there should be silver bells, cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row. There are certainly no silver bells in my patch of dirt, nor shells, unless you count the broken glass I regularly unearth, which I’m told is left over from century-ago residents who once lived in my house and buried and burned their trash in the backyard. And I can promise you there are no pretty maids, unless you count one frustrated faux farmer girl whose face gets more crinkled every summer she tries to turn her backyard of weeds, squirrels and band of blue jays into a lush farmers market.

But gardening. What a metaphor for life it can be.

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I purchased a broccoliflower plant in May. Remember May? So long ago. I had such high hopes, the way I do every April, when the days grow warm and long and the promise of summer perches sweetly on the horizon. I rub my palms together, thinking how this will be the year I become a backyard farmer. This is the year I maintain my energy and enthusiasm for an entire summer and turn that patch of soil into an empire of living things with me as their empress.

Come mid-July, though, I’m stumbling around the yard first thing in the morning, watering said plant, and finally surrender to my farming fate. That broccoliflower plant has as much chance at producing anything edible as there is of me ever fully weeding the front of the house before I get fed up and call it a day. As in, never.

But there she is, this decidedly large plant, abloom with pretty, tiny, butter-yellow flowers. I’ve patiently moved stalks around for weeks now, searching for signs of precious veg growth, and come up with zip. And I decide perhaps it’s time to stop watering something that’s not producing. Save myself the time and energy. And then I wonder if this is also true of other things in life. Should we just toss up the white flag and stop watering what’s not working? And conversely, being even more diligent about watering what we want to see flourish?

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This comes at a time when my four-year relationship is fresh in my rear-view window. “Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear” is truth and feels like it will be for quite some time. But with all its stops and starts, this affair has finally screeched to a final halt. It’s clear to me, as I stand in the early morning haze, that we both stopped watering the relationship at some point. We stopped growing.

Weeding would have helped, too. Weeding = resentments. Some hard to kill. Others easily plucked. Who knows what those pesky shoots are doing below the surface to the roots of your plant? Regularly digging them up helps your plant flourish. Sometimes I’m not a very good weeder. Drive by my house. You’ll see. This is a lifelong project.

This all seems applicable for any relationship, not only romantic ones. You have to take out your watering can and sprinkle some moisture on the ones you care about most. That’s now another lifelong project of mine.

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I also learned something else about that broccoliflower plant. She bolted. Seriously. Apparently, broccoli is a cold weather crop that grows best in cooler temperatures. If it gets too warm, it bolts, or goes to flower. I planted her in the wrong season. I’m a little afraid right now of this metaphor, so I’ll leave it alone. But maybe my whole life would be different right now if I’d waited until September to grow some florets.

But you know what else? I’ve changed my mind about that plant. I’m going to keep watering her, even though she’s not producing food. What she does produce is a little joy, which I can always use more of, especially right now. My girl is big and bold and I’ve noticed the bees gravitate to her flowers, which makes me happy. And she cheers me up when I look out the window while I’m working at the kitchen table.

I do love symbolism, so thank you, little plant, for becoming one for my relationship. While it ultimately didn’t pan out, it did bring me happiness, plus good lessons to water and weed and plant at the right time. As autumn hurtles toward us, I’ll let her flowers and stalks naturally shrivel and fall to the earth. And when I finally pluck her out by her roots and say goodbye, there’ll be a bare patch of soil, hopefully plush with wriggly worms, ready for next season, just like me.

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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