small beginnings



When we bought our first home so many years ago, I thought of home and garden design in terms of magazine spreads–things and furniture and plant life neatly arranged in exactly the right place, constant, tidy, and perfect. It was a finite process in my mind, one with clear beginnings and endings and words like finished and unfinished. Although I do love renovating homes, arranging furniture, and finding the perfect spot for our favorite little things, I’ve realized over the years that design, both indoor and outdoor, is a far more organic process, one that longs to breathe and evolve along with its inhabitants. Regardless of the completeness of your space when you move in to it, the concept of home is something that develops and grows with time. All good things truly do take time.

For all the time interiors require, gardens have taken me longer to learn. My journey with growing and nurturing plants has been one characterized more by error than anything else–I hope this brings some of you comfort. In our first home, an apartment, I created a flower garden on our patio–a tiny nook where we could sit and enjoy natural beauty instead of the concrete parking lot below. In spite of my best effort, I watched, frustrated, as plant after plant died that season. Year after year, with each new beginning, my husband would sort of raise his brow as if to say, “are you sure?” I’ve never been one to back off learning too easily, but it’s not a surprise that my love and patience for plant life has burgeoned alongside my mothering years. They are independent but parallel journeys, one always whispering secrets and skills to me about the other. In spite of failure, each planting has taught me something new and given me more resolve to try again, to learn.

When we moved into our current home, the plant-life had overgrown everything outdoors. Vines crept up and around trees. Dead branches scattered about the yard and dangled from branches. Pieces of trash–tires and old pipes and bottles–lay intertwined beneath heaps of enmeshed stems and leaves. Our yard, although living, had been forgotten and abandoned. During our first spring and summer last year, we began cutting back and cleaning out some of the rubbish. Sometimes nurturing means tearing down and clearing out.  We filled bag upon bag of leaves and decayed brush, and often, it appeared as if we had done nothing. Life can be like this, yes? In one instance, progress might occur overnight, while in another, it evolves more slowly through a series of minutia. Don’t discount the minutia.

In early spring this year, my husband, children, and I cleared and cut out the entire back part of our yard–all of the brush and dead bits–down to the soil. We tilled and leveled the earth a bit and then replanted sod. We purchased old railway ties to create vegetable garden beds and planted 18 tree saplings. Everywhere we live, we plant trees. Although all of our plantings are small, just a bit more than seeds, they are simple reminders to me that everything–the mightiest oaks to the most pivotal human lives–begins small.

Whether you’re gardening or decorating or parenting, beginning a business or a new relationship, be patient with the growing process and don’t forsake small beginnings.

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  1. Pingback: saving seeds from the home garden - cloistered away

  2. Bethany, I am spending my Friday night after the kids are down, as Joy’s off with some friends, reading through your blog. Joy always talks about different posts that you write but I rarely get a chance to read them. I am so much enjoying going through and savoring the words and thoughts that you’ve taken time to put down. Thank you so much. Bless you and your beautiful family. We miss you so.

    1. Author

      Ah, Ben, thank you for taking the time to read! I do wish we could all sit in your backyard with a glass of wine instead. But this space will do for now. ;) We miss you all, too.

  3. You know I love this, friend! That second photo is just gorgeous. Can’t wait to see how your garden develops. xo

  4. I just stumbled upon your blog and I love it. It really spoke to me with its beauty in the simplicity and your thoughts on motherhood. This will be our second summer in our new home; and today, with a toddler playing next to me, I am tilling up the soil to start my beloved garden. It sounds like our overgrown yard looks a lot like yours did. And while I am overwhelmed by the amount of work needed to make my vision come to life, your words run through my mind. The beginning is just beautiful as the end vision and everything in between.

    1. Author

      Welcome, Colleen. And thank you for sharing. Beginning in a new place has been so much more difficult than I imagined, so i’m grateful to be gaining some literal fruit, ideally. I hope your garden is a gift for you and your family. xo

  5. What a beautiful post Bethany, your writing is refreshing! I’ve always struggled with patience, especially when I have that image of magazine perfection in my mind, but working in the garden has always been very grounding for me, and I’ve enjoy knowing that each year there might be longer stems and more leaves to enjoy… Spring is such an exciting season!

    1. Author

      With the constant bombardment of beautiful, often highly stylized images around us all the time, it becomes increasingly difficult to have perspective and patience in our own processes. I agree, gardening is extremely grounding and lends such good life perspective. Thank you for sharing, Kevin!

  6. always, always refreshed visiting your space!

    i think, sometimes in different seasons i expect that process will be different – ie. as if God would make it easier on newer, sleep-deprived parents! watching (through the internet!) how you perceive each stage you encounter with humility has allowed me to reflect how i am discerning the stage i am at, today. like you said, it starts small, and growth may get large. BUT regardless of where we are going … we always come back to raw, small beginnings in each season.

    good word.


    1. Author

      And as always, thank you for your refreshing encouragement. I’ve found different grace in different seasons of life, honestly. And in the earlier years of motherhood, I often found I needed these reminders more. Keep planting. Keep watering. Keep being diligent in little things. Sprouts are on the way. xo

    1. Author

      Thank you, Lucinda. I love metaphors and tend to see them everywhere, in everything. ;)

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