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Old Dogs/New Tricks

Garden Reports and Rejoicing – March 12

When we pay attention we might see that out of the blue the same information often concentrates and threads repeatedly through our lives. Have you noticed that? You might have remained blissfully unaware of Zumba workouts, and suddenly it seems to be popping up everywhere. And it’s not just in popular culture.

I’ve repeatedly seen times when the universe seems to be tapping me on the shoulder and saying “Ahem! Pay attention here!” Recently I’ve been in a cluster of messages about old dogs and new tricks.

As my regular blog readers know, my mother-in-law recently passed away. My husband cleaned out her apartment and one of the things he took out was several new bras and pairs of underwear I purchased for her about a year ago. I thought it would help her to have new undergarments because she was washing her old ones out by hand every night so that they’d be clean for the next day. At 91 years old it might be nice for her not to have to hand wash every evening, right?

She thanked me for the new items but didn’t wear them. Not once. They were still on hangers from the store with the tags when she died. For whatever reason, she wasn’t able to embrace the concept of putting on fresh underwear and putting the dirty items in the laundry basket for a machine washed load once a week. For me this was shoulder tap number one: get in the habit of changing old habits now, while I’m still able to do so.

Shoulder tap number two came when I complained on FaceBook about their new timeline format. I don’t like it. It seems too busy, I said, and I want to go back! Many friends responded with sympathy but Tim Wood said “I think you will love. Think young. Be flexible.” How many times have I said in a talk “Blessed are the flexible for they shall never be bent out of shape?” Thanks Tim, for reminding me to walk my talk.

Over the past two days I attended training sessions at the garden center that were presented by Kathryn Dager of Profitivity, Inc. She spoke at length about how we resist change because of the physical makeup of the brain. No, it’s not just being stubborn or lazy that makes us resist the new and unfamiliar. Our minds aren’t built for cooperating and adapting to changes, which means we have to force the issue. Shoulder tap number three.

Gardeners are, I think, better prepared to embrace variations and transformation. Seasons change, plants die and we watch cycles and modifications happen all around us. Nevertheless, it’s clear that a message is being delivered and my experience in these matters is that if we ignore the first shoulder tap, the next reminder may not be so gentle. Being in the garden constantly calls our brains to build new pathways around the subject of adapting, bending, and growth.

Flexibility and change are important, get it?” I get it and they are qualities I’m willing to cultivate. Remind me as I get older, OK?

New plants to love, new ways of designing gardens, new insect and disease challenges. They all create new pathways that keep our brains alive and changing. Growth R Us!

12 Responses to “Old Dogs/New Tricks”

  1. 1
    cityslipper (small kitchen garden):

    OK. But have you noticed that the people who know you well seem uneasy or bothered if you don’t behave habitually? As soon as you do something “different,” it seems you end up having to ‘splain yourself to someone. I’ve spent my entire adult life having to explain myself, but I love the variety that comes from embracing change. Good luck with your resolve!

  2. 2
    Forest Keeper:

    I was just recently reading about Palm trees and how they are remarkable at weathering storms because of there flexibility. If we are not flexible we will not be able to stand when the winds change direction.

  3. 3
    kathy Tracey:

    CJ ..what a great article. Gardening does present us with repeated challenges, and so also gets us into the practice of going with the flow and embracing new ways.I think you’ve just presented an argument that gardening makes us all better people,

  4. 4
    CL Fornari:

    CitySlipper, you bring back a good memory. When my youngest son was around 10 I took him out with me on a Sunday afternoon. At one point I stopped at an antique store and he elected to stay in the car and read. I ended up purchasing an old farm kitchen table, and shop’s owner helped me carry it out to my station wagon. As the owner and I were loading the table into the back, my son’s voice drifted up from the front. “Lucy…you got some ‘splainin to do!” Seriously, I’m fortunate – I’m surrounded by supportive family, friends and co-workers who are used to me moving onto “the next big idea.”

  5. 5
    CL Fornari:

    Forest Keeper – I frequently say in my talks, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall never be bent out of shape.”

  6. 6
    CL Fornari:

    Thanks, Kathy! Yes! In most cases gardening does make us better people… and I guess one way it does so is by building those pathways in our brain that cause us to be more accepting of change.

  7. 7

    Hi C.L.
    I must confess- change has not been an easy thing for
    me! But would like to share this thought..
    Doesn’t it seem true, that when you have a natural
    interest in something, it comes easier to us. You tend to
    excel in it no matter what changes come along?! :)

  8. 8

    Good morning C.L.: Teaching an OLD DOG NEW TRICKS has become a way of life with me. I have proven many times in the past couple of years that an OLD DOG can learn new tricks. It is fun, rewarding and enjoyable. I now call it OLD DOG LEARNING NEW TRICKS.

    Have a wonderful day,

  9. 9
    Donna Maness:

    CL – Great Post!! I will take this one to heart and paste it up somewhere where I can read it often.

    Belated condolences to Dan and you and the boys.



  10. 10
    CL Fornari:

    Deborah – yes, the more interested we are in a topic the easier it is to learn and be flexible. My particular interest for many years, however, is how all change opens up opportunities. Even the garden teaches this. I’m not particularly interested in the deer that are munching my shrubs right now, and I’d rather not be bothered. Nevertheless, they call me to be flexible, be that in my plant choices, with deer repellants and even in changing my attitude about them. Could it be, for example, that viewing Bambi and Bambi’s mom as an enemy might actually cause them to do more damage? Is it possible to embrace their presence on my property while peacefully asking them to leave particular plants alone?

  11. 11
    CL Fornari:

    Old Dogs, New Tricks R Us, John!

  12. 12
    CL Fornari:

    Thanks, Donna. Hope to see you guys soon.