Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lessons in Serendipity
(Or What I Learned From a Petunia)

--FEATURE: "The Sustainable Soul w/Rebecca Hecking"--

There are times in every parent’s life when we are surprised by a gift of unexpected wisdom, dropped in our lap by the Universe. More often than not, it comes disguised as something completely ordinary.

Last summer, my son decided to plant a cherry pit in hopes of growing a tree. His idea was that said tree would provide him with bushels of delicious organic cherries for his own personal consumption. I’m not terribly sure he was completely prepared for the decade or so wait for his project to mature. No matter. The pit went in a pot, covered with soil and dutifully watered for weeks. Nothing happened. A few more weeks passed. Still nothing.

Just as he was about to give it up and maybe try an apple seed instead, a tiny green shoot appeared. He immediately recognized it as the source of future snacks, and began catering to its every perceived need. Every day, he moved it back and forth on the porch to catch the maximum sunlight, watered it faithfully, and offered it words of encouragement in case it was perhaps feeling depressed and needed motivation to grow.

As time passed, it became clear to me (mom the gardener) that this was no cherry tree. It looked more like a weed every day. No doubt it was the product of some random seed blown in from the yard. By now, fall was in full swing, and Matthew decided it was time to bring the “tree” in from the cold. It was truth time. I gently broke the news that this surely was not a tree, but a weed. No, he said. It was most definitely a tree. A tree that needed our care to survive. Weed, I said. Tree, he responded. No, it’s a weed. It’s a tree. Weed. Tree. Sigh… Like any parent, in the face of such determination, I caved. We brought it inside. It flourished on a sunny shelf, pampered and coddled, surely the happiest and most fussed-over weed on the planet.

Then, one day in January I looked at our weed. It was sporting one small, still closed bud. But this was no scraggly weedy blossom. Finally, I saw the plant for what it really was. It was no tree. It was no weed. The next day, a solitary glorious purple petunia bloomed. Matthew was stunned, but finally had to admit that it was most certainly NOT a tree. We were completely wrong. The plant had surprised us both. Caught up in our own perceptions of what we wanted to see, we were blinded to what was really there, growing right before our eyes.

Every day, I walk by that silly petunia, still growing and now covered in flowers. It speaks to me. It reminds me to be careful of arrogant certainty. It offers itself as an object lesson in happy surprises. It cautions me against allowing my opinions to become set in concrete. It makes me smile. The more I ponder its serendipitous presence, the more I truly see and the more deeply I learn. Long may it bloom.

"Sustainable Soul" is written by Rebecca Hecking, a freelance writer and managing editor for Primal Parenting Magazine. Primal Parenting is a revolutionary new publication seeking to educate and empower families. For more information on Primal Parenting Magazine go to

No comments: