bloom where you’re planted

This life of mine keeps taking me places. In the last seven years we’ve lived in four cities. We’ve had an apartment in an old Victorian in urban Minneapolis, in a restored church in Gloucester, in the old servant’s quarters of a mansion house in Hamilton, Massachusetts. Now we have a flat in a dated and dilapidated concrete building, with the sink and shower conveniently located (as my husband likes to say) just down the hall from the toilet. In Minneapolis we had pots in the kitchen windows. In Gloucester we had canna lilies in the parking lot. In Hamilton, for one glorious year, we talked our landlady into letting us have a piece of her kitchen garden, just sitting there fallow and waiting to be loved. We had eggplant, cucumber, spinach, potatoes, butternut squash, herbs, beans and beets and we would have had bushels of gorgeous heirloom tomatoes (except that it was during the tomato blight and all nine tomato plants died). We had enough zucchini to supply the city of Boston, had we been asked. In Oxford we have a balcony.

It’s basically a 4′ x 8′ concrete box. It is encircled by our flat, and from it we have a view of the backyard and some of the chimney pots of north Oxford. Many of our neighbors, I regret to say, seem to use it for storage and unlovely piles of bicycles, laundry racks, buckets, and boxes are common. (In their defense, they probably had to choose between storing these items on the balcony or in the bathtub.) In actual fact this building is overdue to be pulled down. It would be–it is–too easy to find fault with it. To move in and mumble because it runs out of hot water, the walls are yellowed cinder block, the kitchen appliances miniature versions of the real thing. To mumble that we can’t have a garden. Or can we?

We have, in fact, a lovely little block of outdoor space that receives every ray of afternoon sun. It’s one step out my living room door, so I can sit in the garden without leaving the house. It’s completely private, we can have a candlelit dinner for two out there or sit in pajamas with our coffee. This is where we are. This is what we have. This is what God has given us and it is so good.

We do not have a square inch of land. We do have roses, lavender, ivy, geraniums, daschias, lobelias, and fuchsia. We have tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, strawberries, and Norah’s beans. All growing in the middle of the air. All waving in the breeze and brilliantly green in the afternoon sun. We water every other day. This morning I pulled a minuscule weed from the geranium pot. We are gardening. We are blooming where we’re planted.

For Deanna, who shared her plants and sent me pictures of balcony gardens. (And who is changing the world, one good idea at a time.)
And for Alex, who spent a warm Saturday lugging dirt and plants and pots and children around on buses in a baby buggy. (And who never complained.)

The Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622) is credited with the quote, “bloom where you are planted.” 

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21 Responses to bloom where you’re planted

  1. Deanna says:

    Oh Bets! I wish I could say my little garden looks half as good. And don’t even get me started on last year’s balcony… sheesh! Although we didn’t make it into a garden (I think I had 2 tiny pots on the rail!), we did always consider it our ‘bonus room’ which sometimes served as playroom, sometimes patio, sometimes clothes dryer, sometimes al fresco dining room, sometimes tanning salon, but always bubble-blowing space. Here’s to more blooming in the seasons to come!

  2. Elena says:

    This post does my little gypsy heart good! I love traveling and going to different places but right now my family is in a pretty steady season, and while I truly am cheerful and content in this season, I always appreciate the reminder to bloom where I’m planted!
    Thanks again.

  3. Elena says:

    p.s. I wanted to let you know that I’ve introduced you and your blog on my own:

    Wonderful things were said, I assure you. : )
    I hope your week is off to a great start!

  4. Mom & Dad N. says:

    Betsy, I love your lovely, private balcony garden and I love what it signifies…..that you and Alex are blooming where you are planted, making this time and space in your lives beautiful! Love, Mom

  5. Candace says:

    Betsy, you really are incredible. I love your attitude about life.

  6. Arielle says:

    I ran across your blog through Elena (who just commented)… and I have to say that you are just delightful to read! I love your garden and your candle-lit dinners. Can’t wait to hear more about your adventures in foreign lands and mother-hood.

    Arielle L.

  7. You know I love your balcony garden! The care and attention that you put into everything that you do inspires me. Your words are a great reminder that I needed to hear today. Thank you! 🙂

  8. Julia says:

    I was surprised and grateful to read the title of your latest entry, as this very phrase has been on my mind in recent days after a conversation with a wise friend. A timely word indeed (and coming after some disappointing news, news which urges me to accept anew wherever our family is planted). Thank you.

  9. Erin Hicks says:

    I agree with Candace.

    I have a major girl crush on you.

    And I GET TO SEE YOU (and your dear balcony) IN LESS THAN 2 WEEKS!!!

    My excitement is growing daily….no minute-ly.

    • the girl-crush is mutual. I’m so psyched to see you three i can’t stand it.
      i amuse myself daily with little things, thinking, i want to do this or plan this for when they come…

  10. therigneys says:

    Oh how I miss coming over and seeing those little flower pots in your windows! I’m proud to say that I have visited three out of the four homes you have mentioned. But don’t you worry- I will make sure I see the fourth one day!

    Love you!

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