|Lettuce (Photo credit: Hamburger Helper)|
I already have tomatoes, beans, peas and a good crop of rocket, and a few days ago i bought a punnet of 24 baby lettuces from a market stall to add to my collection.
They are lollo rosso variety - a beautiful, vibrant mauve colour with pretty curly leaves. I'd been told that you can pick just a few leaves at a time and they'll continue to produce all through the summer - fantastic!
They had been grown individually in little 'cubes' of soil that were joined together. So I carefully broke off each one and eased them gently in to their places in my garden. I watered them in, welcomed them in to their new home, and thought no more of it.
The following day I went down to check on my latest additions, and found they had all wilted and shrivelled - every single one of them. I was gutted! Still, I reasoned, they've just come to a new home and, even though I've done my very best to give them care and attention so they can settle in, it must still have been a stressful move. To be uprooted from the place you grew up, separated from your friends, and placed in a new place that must seem huge, empty and hostile - they'd probably never been out of their greenhouse before! Even then I couldn't help but chuckle at the very obvious links to my own childhood experiences.
So I continued to water and tend them - propping them up and talking to them as well (oh yes I did!). But the days passed and they didn't seem to make much progress. Four of them completely shrivelled (like lettuce that's been left in a fridge too long? Watery and floppy) two of them seemed to be picking up a bit, and the rest of them just looked generally wilted. They simply didn't seem to have the energy to do anything at all, even though the sun had been shining every day, the soil was good, and I continued to nurture them.
It was just a few days later when we had the most almighty of storms. It started, as usual, with a sudden drop in air pressure. The birds went silent, sensing the impending changes, and the brooding skies started to unfurl their rumbling cloaks as the sunlight became overshadowed by the gathering storm clouds. A warning crack of thunder split the air, and then came the rain. Sparse at first, but steadily gathering momentum as the ferocity intensified, turning the gentle thrumming in to relentless heavy pounding, bouncing off every hard surface and intensifying the sounds even more.
I imagined my poor little lettuces - being beaten, battered and drowned, and I felt sad at my unforseen role in hastening their untimely deaths. They'd seemed so happy and full of promise at the market stand, and I'd thought that I could give them more. But I was wrong. The storm was too mighty, they were no longer together, and they couldn't fight alone.
I noticed again the similarities in my own life and the battles I'm facing on a daily basis as I try to make sense of the past two months. Now I am unable to pay my bills, there is still no work booked, and my estranged husband is doing nothing to move forward with the divorce proceedings. I feel alone, helpless and vulnerable - and some days I wonder how to keep going.
With my own storm clouds gathering above me, I've been using every nerve cell and fibre of my being to stay positive, strong and determined for both myself and my son, even in the face of continued adversity. It's like a slow, relentless monster moving towards me. I can't always see or hear it, and I can sometimes pretend it's not there; but it's always getting closer and I cannot escape no matter what I do.
Yesterday I received two bits of unfavourable news, which for me, announced the thunder and lightening of my own personal storm. That was it for me. I had no fight left, no more solutions to create, nowhere to turn and I felt I simply couldn't carry on. I was totally drained - emotionally, physically and spiritually. I was all washed up, and I sank slowly to the floor and let myself go as the hot tears of frustration, hopelessness and exhaustion coursed down my face, blurring my vision as my body shuddered with hard rasping sobs.
Finally exhausted, I dragged myself to bed, to face yet another night of vivid and disturbed dreams as I continue to try and make sense of this on-going living nightmare.
This morning, it's another beautiful sunny day. I decided I'd spend my first couple of hours tending my garden, and assess what damage had been left by the storm. The earth was once again dry - too dry in fact, so I switched on the well-pump and went about watering the beds.
It was about 11am by the time I got down to my vegetable patch. Absent-mindedly sprinkling the water spray over my beans and peas, I suddenly noticed out of the corner of my eye, a little flash of mauve in the next bed. I shook my head and blinked, surely it couldn't be...? I edged closer, and more purple tinged leaves came in to view, as I saw that every single one of my lettuces had not only survived the storm, but were now actually standing upright and strong, and waving in the breeze! Even the two that I had previously thought were completely dead, had sprouted small, determined new leaves right at the centre of the 'blob' that was left of them.
And I found myself laughing - quietly chuckling on the inside at first, and then growing to shoulder-shaking gaffaws as I continued to take in the lessons on every single level of my being.
"The darkest hour is the one before dawn" is one of my favourite sayings - and these little plants had taught me some invaluable lessons. About how difficult it can be to settle in to a new routine after change. About how no amount of external nurturing can make you 'come back to life'. About how the biggest storm that to most people would appear a killer, had actually washed them clean, nourished them, and made them strong.
Nature is truly wonderful. And nature's little lettuces of life have given me hope and inspiration today.
Perhaps I'm not alone though. Perhaps other people have learned from lettuces before me. And perhaps that's why one variety was called Little Gem....