Our family dream is to someday live in an old-looking white farmhouse down a country lane, with lots of space for a beautiful garden, some chickens and a couple of larger animals.
The house we live in right now serves our needs for space quite well, but, no matter which window we look out of, we are surrounded by homes covered in vinyl siding. And let's just say vinyl siding isn't our favorite, not by a long shot.
There's a small garden area in our yard next to the garage. Since this house isn't the place we want to call home for years and years, my wife Alicia was reluctant to put a lot of work into planting the garden and putting down roots this year, only to have to pull up and move somewhere else in a year or so.
There came a time this spring when we needed to make some decisions about the garden. How long would we be living here? Was it worth buying plants and seeds and putting in all that effort, only to face the possibility that we would be gone in a year or less?
After many long talks, we accepted that it was time to bloom where we are planted, even if it is only for another year. Seeds were ordered. Our window sills were covered with tiny starts in paper cups. Trips were made to the greenhouse.
And now, among other lovely and delicious things, we are enjoying strawberries, peas, tiny carrots and giant sunflowers.
All of this got me thinking about how we humans so often wait for the ideal situation before making ourselves at home, arranging things around us to our liking, beginning the work we feel called to.
The sad thing is, for those who sit on their hands and wait, the perfect circumstances never come to be.
One of my favorite books is Tasha Tudor's Garden. I gave it to Alicia as a present fifteen years ago on our wedding day.
The pages are filled with lovely, moving photos and words about a lady who, during her lifetime, was a prolific illustrator and avid floral gardener.
From the glimpses this book gives of Tasha Tudor's life in her garden, it's easy for me to jump to the conclusion that her life was perfect, filled with weeding and gathering and painting, with plenty of walks about the grounds each day to clear her mind and rest her spirits, having probably always lived in the place she spent her later years.
But a closer look provides an entirely different picture of her life.
Tasha was born in 1915. Her parents divorced when she was nine years old, and her mother sent her to live during the weekdays with a couple in the Connecticut countryside.
The family Tasha stayed with lived the simple country life. For fun, the mother would write plays in which the children were the actors. It was an unconventional, yet wonderful, place to grow up, and Tasha came to love the feeling of being connected to the land.
When she was fifteen, she used the money she had saved teaching nursery school to buy her first cow.
Eight years later, in 1938, she was married, beginning her very own family on the farm her mother owned in Redding Connecticut. It wasn't long before her first two children were born.
The family was by no means financially well off. Tasha, who had been sketching and illustrating most of her life, put together a book and, encouraged to do so by her husband, shopped it around to editors until she found one who agreed to publish her work.
Seven years and several books later, the royalties were sufficient for Tasha to buy a large old farm in Webster, New Hampshire. The decrepit farmhouse had seventeen rooms, and no electricity or running water.
Two more children were soon welcomed into the family, and Tasha set up her new home place to be self-sufficient. The rooms were furnished with antiques, and the children wore handmade clothing and ate food produced on the farm.
In the midst of tending to the land and home and raising her children, Tasha continued to write and illustrate. Children loved her stories and paintings, and the publishing world recognized her talent, awarding her books Mother Goose and 1 Is One with the honor of being named Caldecott Honor books.
Life wasn't without struggle for Tasha. She and her husband parted ways in the late nineteen-sixties, and a second marriage soon after also ended in divorce.
And even though her children loved and appreciated much of the upbringing she so carefully supplied, some of them felt stifled and and isolated and wished they could have spent more time with other children growing up. Tasha's relationships with three of her four children were strained in later years.
In 1972, Tasha sold her old farm and moved to her property in Marlboro, Vermont. It was there, in her late fifties, that she was finally able to make the home she had always wanted.
The house is a beautiful replica of a 1740 New Hampshire farm house. Her son, Seth, lived next door and built Tasha's new house using only hand tools. The gardens were carefully designed and put together according to Tasha's exacting specifications, every detail just so.
Now, as I page through the book, I see the fifty-seven long years it took to bring Tasha Tudor to her dream garden. I see the struggles she went through, the taste and style she developed and protected over time, the skills she cultivated in each part of her life as a girl, a wife, a mother, an illustrator, a gardener.
This quote from the book stood out to me when I read it the other day:
"But above all, Tasha is particularly proud of her mother's Narcissus poeticus 'Plenus', the oldest narcissus in cultivation, which she dug up and transplanted wherever she lived. It has one glaring fault - the sheaf that wraps each bud refuses to fall free and must be removed by hand - but Tasha patiently performs the service so the blossoms won't blast."
-Tasha Tudor's Garden, page 54
The beginnings of a dream, carried from one home to the next, always cared for, always tended to.
Perhaps, for you, the dream is something other than a garden. But the principle still applies.
What are your present circumstances?
Do your dreams feel stifled? Does the end result you long for feel out of reach? If so, be encouraged by looking at Tasha Tudor's life.
She started early and followed after her desire every step of the way. She did the work, cultivated her skills, strengthened her sense of style.
When the time was right, she had become the person who could make her dream a reality.
Every step of the way, she changed her environment to suit her purposes, even if she wasn't planning on staying forever. She kept on working, kept on nurturing. Wherever she lived, things grew and flourished.
Life wasn't perfect, but she lived it anyway.
Our stories are only told in looking back, but they are written day by day with our actions. You don't have tomorrow in front of you, only today. And today is plenty enough to work with.
What can you do, today, that will make room in your life for creativity and joy? What can you do here and now that will stay with you for the rest of your life?
If something comes to mind, go make it happen, then come back and tell me about it.
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