In Sydney Eddison’s Gardening for a Lifetime, I came across “Lessons from the Garden: Accepting Imperfection.” That’s really what life is about, isn’t it? While rare fleeting moments can be perfect, most of life, especially in the garden, is imperfection itself.
In my garden, I have found brief occasions when everything is in a state of perfect balance. The Phlox stand tall, unattacked by some new insect or powdery mildew. Sun, wind and rain have spared the Peonies fragile blooms. The petunias and hollyhocks are at their peak, the yellow center of a coneflower picks up the vibrant yellow in the Coryopsis.
Never mind those occasions (far too many of them) when everything seems to lie in ruins, burned by the sun or smashed by the wind. Never mind the young woman who says, “Looking good,” as she rides by on her bike. (“What does that smarty pants New Yorker know anyway,” I think.) I can see what’s wrong here in my garden, or not, depending on my state of mind. With age, hopefully, comes enlightenment. You come to appreciate the ‘not perfect’, such as leaves in the garden. Never mind those times when a plant seems out-of-place, too tall or too small. Or, perhaps it is badly placed, in an area formerly sunny and now shady. The poor darling flops on its side, trying to catch the sun’s rays. “I’ll move that plant as soon as the weather grows a bit cooler,” I think to myself, knowing full well, that cool weather will not arrive for at least 6-8 more weeks.
Indeed, the one lesson every gardener learns is that perfection when it happens (and it does) is fleeting, so treasure it. Ben Johnson, friend of Shakespeare once said, “in short measures, life may perfect be.”
As I grow older, I am better able to appreciate imperfection in the garden. I now see asymmetry as beautiful.
Look for those perfect moments when beauty hangs in the balance and treasure them, but treasure also those less than perfect moments when anything that can go wrong does, and find beauty there too.