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The Wrong Garden

Growing a garden means committing to a vision. Whether you’re planting for vegetables, herbs, or butterflies, the process is the same. You select what you want to grow, work out a design, and then do the hard work of planting, tending, and weeding.

It’s that last job that can be the most difficult. If you’re like me, you don’t always know what is a weed and what isn’t. One little green seedling can look much like another, particularly when you’ve spent the past two hours in the hot sun.

A month or so ago, I was weeding the butterfly garden when I came across a little sprout that I didn’t recognize. It wasn’t any of my known enemies (I’m talking about you, dollar weed), but it also didn’t look like any of the flowers I had planted.

Instead of pulling it out, I decided to give it a little space and time. Over the next weeks, I watched it grow, spreading its leaves to claim space. This weekend, my little weed burst into bloom.

The “weed” is the plant with the purple-and-white flowers

Not bad, huh?

It is a truism of gardening that what’s a weed in one garden can be the centerpiece of another. From the weed’s perspective, there’s really not too much it can do. If you’re a flower in the wrong garden, you’re never going to fit in. Whatever you do, the other plants will always be given pride of place, and it’s just a matter of time before you’re discarded.

From a writer’s perspective (or a reader’s), the story of the wrong garden is a classic. Cinderella is an obvious example. So’s Harry Potter. The idea of not being able to succeed simply because of the community you’re trapped in is one that we can all connect to. We’ve all felt under-appreciated at times, or had that feeling of helplessness.

For my part, there have been quite a few moments where I found myself in the wrong garden. Sometimes, it was a professional situation. Other times, it was a social group or a church community.

How about you?

Have you ever looked around and wondered why nothing seemed to work? Felt like the people around you didn’t want you there? Or maybe you suddenly realized that your talents didn’t match what everyone else wanted?

When you’re in the wrong garden, there aren’t a lot of options. Leaving isn’t always possible, and changing the people around you can seem completely unrealistic.

Sometimes, your best hope is that someone will reach out. They’ll clear out the space around you, give you time to grow, and then learn to appreciate all that you are.

Looking at the situation from a different perspective, try keeping your eyes out for folks who are trapped in the wrong garden. The payoff for helping them can be truly beautiful.

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Posted July 16, 2023 in Life & Writing