Jun 9, 2010

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Pruning Expectations

Pruning Expectations

Yesterday I found my three year old daughter sitting under the kitchen table in a pile of hair, with scissors in her hand. The intensity of my gasp made me pull a muscle in my chest. My first thought was actually a prayer, “Please God, let that hair be the dog’s that I have been so terribly neglectful in sweeping up.” It wasn’t. As she climbed out from under the table, my emotions hit extreme highs on total ends of the spectrum: hysterical laughing joy and gut wrenching terror. My daughter is a flower girl in a wedding, in two weeks.

My mind raced. I thought of the bride breaking down in tears as she saw this sweet little girl, who now resembled something of a farm accident, standing in her perfect lilac dress. I wondered if hair salons would actually put extensions onto the forehead of a child. And then I thought of five flats of seedlings in the yard that were dead from neglect.

Late February of this year, I started trays of seeds to grow in our garden. Some I had purchased from various seed companies, some I had saved from the bounty of previous years and some were even sent to me by a friend in a foreign country. For four months, I had tended to them; misting them down when they were tiny and watering them as they got older, bringing the trays inside and out, for limited amounts of time, to get them used to the sun and the wind. These were my babies.

Last week I was away in Pennsylvania helping my husband’s cousin prepare for her wedding. My husband stayed in my absence to finish out his workweek, wait for school to get out and care for the farm, before joining me. When we returned after our trip, there in a corner of the garden, was a stack of my seedling trays with crisp, beige plant remains hanging over the side. He had called me in PA to tell me that the 90 degree days were taking their toll on the seedlings and that it didn’t look like he was going to be able to have time to plant them. But knowing this and seeing this were two different things.

Last night I found myself in a vortex of … well, yuck. All of the disappointment I had been feeling about my seeds and now the lack of hair on my kid came crashing together. As I stomped about the house I knew that I needed to get myself to a better place, one that I desperately wanted away from the offenders that I lived with, but I couldn’t think of anywhere that I wanted to go to. So, I shut myself in my room to find some quiet and meditate.

As I sat there, grounding myself and focusing on my breath, I thought of my bees. Last year I started keeping honeybees. I fell in love with these little creatures as I watched them build their colony and fill it with babies and honey. At the end of the season, they fell prey to a marauding colony of feral bees and I stood by and watched as the entire colony died. I tried every trick in the book to save them, and even came up with a few of my own, but ultimately there was nothing that I could do.

Tomorrow we pick up the starts of three new hives. We have decided to scrap the traditional method of beekeeping that we originally started with, and try something much more progressive and organic. I am downright terrified. It isn’t the potential angering of several thousand stinging bodies that worries me, but the crushing disappointment of failure and the potential devastation that I will feel if I have a part in the death of so many.

Disappointment is married to expectation. When we hold onto our assumptions with both hands, there is no way to embrace possibility. My husband, my daughter and feral bees were not the offenders in these stories. My very own self and my expectations created this drama, the others were simply the narrators of the stories. Surrendering to the idea that there is no control, to not make assumptions, is most definitely a leap of faith and vulnerable way to live. But as a parent and a farmer, living in a world of restrictive expectations is potentially catastrophic.

Today I will plant the new seedlings that I purchased from a local greenhouse and read about integrating the incoming bees into the new system. And with each step, I will try to be aware of my need to control the outcome with my expectations and just surrender to whatever will be. Though I know that there will still be disappointments to deal with, I will try not to let it prevent me from finding joy in the moment. Just this morning I realized that I can’t see my daughter’s hair when I’m hugging her.

  1. Tina Nadeau says:

    Mikko
    I love your personal story about expecation and disappointment. I too am a beekeeper and the wonderful life lessons I’ve learned from the bees include letting go of all expecations. You never know what you’ll find when you open the hive! Being a beekeeper has made me a better parent and spouse. It sounds simple when you read it, but your comment about disappointment and expecation being married was, well, liberating. It’s scary to let go of control, but freeing at the same time. Thank you for delivering the message with such grace and honesty.

  2. Tina,
    Thank you for your comments! Sadly, the lesson wasn’t over as situations arose making it painfully obvious that we were not going to be able to keep bees this year. Enjoy your year of living with the little ladies and thank you for making my day!
    Mikko

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