I find working in a garden, really getting my fingers into the soil, helps keep me connected with all that is important. Somehow watching seedlings and plants take root and grow into fruitful maturity is reassuring. I am reminded that this is all a process that people have lived out for centuries. We are not, really, so very different from those who came before. The tools we use - both in gardening and in teaching - may be different, but their purposes are remarkably the same. And the seeds and plants we tend are remarkably like those of old. As seeds they begin, needing tending and care, soon becoming sturdier and stronger, able to push up towards the light of the sun and stretch out vines and tendrils towards its heat. Our children are the same. We worry and fret over them, but as they are trained to look for truth and light, they too will stretch out towards wisdom and understanding for themselves. Some may need a bit more support as they grow, some will stand stocky and strong on their own; each one is both alike and different from every other one we've tended.
Honestly, in the end, if my children are not scholars or athletes, all will not be lost. Do they know they are loved? Are they learning to be kind and joyful, to enjoy learning, to make the most of what they have? Those are the fundamental things of life into which I much invest. Whether I prop up my berries with the expensive berry stands from the latest gardening catalog or tie them up with twine to the old weathered fence will not significantly affect their yield. The math or English curriculum I use is also only a tool, a means to an end.
It is a fact that the situations under which some of the most brilliant minds of all time have developed defy all odds. It turns out that children have grown strong and sturdy in the hardest of times, and much like my little plants, often despite the benign neglect of their caretakers.
When I am tempted to believe that it is solely by my effort, solely through my exertion, or solely dependent on my decisions that my children will either rise or fall in life or eternity, I need to put down the books and go back out into the garden to take a look at my tomato vines. There are some plants that are struggling, despite my best care, and then there are volunteers growing with wild abandon right in the middle of my rose bed.
I am also reminded that the most effective posture for gardening is on one's knees.
Not all rigor is mortis -