I hesitate to share with readers a particular lesson I learned from two maple trees that are growing strong in my front yard, but I can't help myself. I guess it never ceases to amaze me how much I have learned over the years, through working in the garden or simply tending to the landscaping surrounding our house. Nature's lessons tend to sneak up on me. Perhaps it's the physical aspect involved, or maybe it's the quiet time spent in union with the earth and it's life force. Regardless, I think I cherish the "ah-ha" moments that emerge, and I definitely remember the lessons better than if someone had lectured me on the specific topic.
When we moved into our previously-owned home in Indiana, two maple trees were struggling to survive. They were little more than saplings, so I went into my full-blown nurturing mode. I spoke with experts from the local nursery, and purchased the appropriate fertilizer, along with a bag that zipped around the base of the trunk. It allowed a slow trickle of water to soak into the roots on the dry days of summer.
I treated both trees equally. Soon, though, I noticed that one had dark, rich, green leaves, while the other was a much paler green. Obviously, I hadn't put enough fertilizer on the tree with the lighter foliage. Hence, I proceeded to carefully mix the recommended fertilizer again into a bucket of water and dumped it around the base. It had worked so well on the other maple tree, I was certain it would do the same for this one. Instead, I watched in horror as the tree began to wither. It made no sense to me, until it finally did.
One day, while clipping a few more dead branches out of the struggling tree, I noticed something I should have noticed long before. I had been so busy treating the trees equally, that I hadn't paid attention to the fact that they weren't the same. Although both were maples, they were two distinct varieties of maple trees. The one with lighter green leaves, actually had variegated leaves, that were meant to be lighter in color. The tree was meant to have leaves with two-toned lighter shades of green, not dark green. I had nearly killed this tree because I'd ignored it's uniqueness. Finally, I stopped fertilizing it, and simply watered it. Eventually, it flourished as well as the dark-leafed maple tree had done.
The experience made me think of people. Sometimes I lump us all together and expect each individual to react the same way to situations. After all, we're all part of the human race, right? But as much as we're all the same, we're also each uniquely different. Whether it's two kids from the same family with different personalities, or people within our neighborhoods or communities, in spite of shared experiences, each one is unique.
The monumental task, then, is to learn how to nurture one another by embracing who we are as individuals, not who we are expected to be because of family, culture, religion, etc. It requires both time and patience, and sometimes mistakes. Yet the effort is well worth it. Maybe we'll know we've gotten it right when we each begin to flourish like those two maple trees, with roots firmly planted and possessing the ability to thrive. It will require some serious master gardening skills. Good luck honing yours. May we all be master gardeners, nurturer's of one another.