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Finding the Blend

Text by: Sue E Peterson
Aspiring Gardener and Author of The Mourning Run

If you want to take soup from flat to fantastic, you add herbs. What fresh basil and oregano can do to vegetable broth is nothing short of remarkable.

Growing herbs in any available space you may have, in a variety of pots, is a road to satisfaction. Realizing you can actually grow something, and then harvest and eat it, can do great things to bolster feelings of self-awesomeness.

Some herbs can be pretty hardy when it comes to surviving under the care of a brown thumb. Others are a bit more needy and must be coaxed to grow. But the effort—whether great or small—can pay off when you clip some parsley leaves off the plant and sprinkle them over the roasted potatoes before they're whisked to the table for dinner.

When you need to harvest your herbs, you don't rip up the entire plant. You snip a little off here, and pinch a little off there. Actually, it's a good thing to snip and pinch, because it prevents the plant from becoming spindly and going to seed.

Are fresh herbs crucial? That depends on how you view your food. Meals put together with the singular purpose of sustaining life can get by without any frills; but food prepared as an event—an experience—requires formal attire in the form of herbs and garnishes.

"Life is like growing a garden," may be cliché, but it's the truth. Plant a seed, water and care for it, and enjoy the harvest. Plant yourself in good situations, water your efforts, and harvest progress and growth. You can live your life with finesse, like a garnish; but it's okay to live it simply, just surviving each day if that's all you can manage.

© Jessica Ceason Photography

Take the herbage analogy further and realize that even if we find ourselves planted in life's dirt, we can still grow and produce something useful. I could go on ad nauseam with parallels, but I'd like to settle on an unlikely analogy: composting. Composting requires taking vegetation and allowing it to decompose into life giving matter. You take the composted material and mix it in with your garden soil and, in so doing, add rich natural nutrients to the ground, giving your plants and herbs the optimal growing environment. It's recycling at its finest and most basic.

I was thinking recently about a current assignment I'd been given. It's a pretty involved assignment, and to accomplish it, I'll have to call upon skills I've gained through experience with other tasks over the years. The thought occurred to me that if I had declined those preparatory assignments, or given them half effort, this assignment would be nearly impossible for me to pull off. I realized I had gained some skills by slogging through difficult, and sometimes mundane, projects. To tackle this latest challenge, I need to recycle my past efforts.

Think for a moment on the tasks, challenges, and opportunities you've been through in your life. I bet you can see that one prepared you for the next in line. Your responses nourished your soul and braced you for the next planting.

What if you taint the soil by a poor reaction to tasks and trials? Is all lost? Have you failed your future? For Heaven's sake, no! If I tallied the times I've planted, and then annihilated, vegetables and herbs, I'd be marked as a serial killer. The crucial action is what I do after I've thrown the dead plants in the compost heap. Do I try again or abandon the quest for green-thumbness altogether? I think the answer is obvious. Eventually I'll get it right.

The situations we fall victim to don't define us, our reactions to those situations do. We can be placed in poor soil, face bad weather, suffer through drought or over watering, encounter rocks, weeds, or excessive pruning; in the end, the fruit we bear is a manifestation of our character.

Trite as the metaphor may be, we are herbs. We can grow anywhere, in any type of situation. Some of us are higher maintenance than others, but we're worth the trouble. We can "compost" our past efforts; pinch the excess out of our lives; plant and re-plant as we try, and try again to succeed; and ultimately, add flavor and finesse to the lives of those we choose to season. Sometimes our seasoning may be a little "off," but because we test and give it another go, we eventually find the right blend, and life ends up tasting pretty good.