As I was preparing some seedlings for planting a few days ago, I visited with one of my big poppas of the garden, my 2 year old kale plant. This kale plant and I have quite a history and he’s seen some rough times, and as I contemplated his struggles I realized he had something to teach us about enduring our trials.
Last year all my kale and collard greens got hit with a HORRIBLE case of bacterial soft rot. If you’ve never experienced this in your garden, consider yourself lucky! One afternoon the plants all looked wilted like they hadn’t had a good rain in a while. The next morning they were totally trashed. The bacteria destroys the cellular structure to get at the juicy plant liquids, and in the span of a few hours you have a rotten, stinking pile of garbage with flies on it, literally!
That collard was GLORIOUS before he was destroyed, so sad!
I had to pull out almost all of them, except 3 kales and 1 lone collard green. I cut back as much rot as I could and treated heavily with organic anti-bacterial sprays, and then I prayed. My once flourishing garden was going the way of the potato famine, and there was little I could do. But with aggressive treatment, these little guys survived, mostly unscathed. If I showed you the other surviving kale you’d never know there was ever a problem. But Big Poppa, he’s got a story to tell. As you can see, the rot ate almost entirely through his stalk. I was sure it was just a matter of time before he whithered away or snapped in half under his own weight. But the funny thing is, he never did. Here’s a recent shot of Big Poppa’s scar:
He made it through the winter when the frost came, and this season he has BLOSSOMED. He has shot off so many side branches we can eat for days off of one plant….did I mention he’s the ONLY one that branched off and flourished? The other survivors are doing just fine, and we get a lovely bunch of greens off the top shoot every week or so, but Big Poppa provides in a serious way.
It really made me think about what it is to suffer and survive, and what it means to thrive. Every one of those plants was infected, in the exact same garden plot, just inches apart from each other, same rain, same sun, same pests, and Big Poppa got it worst of all. I didn’t harvest them any differently, so there’s no conceivable reason that one should produce side shoots and not the others. It made me wonder if the plants that had a better time of the trial had conserved their energy and stayed in their regular patterns while Big Poppa was forced to change and grow and adapt his strategy if he wanted to survive. Did he thrive BECAUSE of his trials, BECAUSE of his scars? I believe that to be true. And if that’s true, think of all the scars, physical and emotional that we acquire as we go through this life. We recoil from the discomfort, shudder at the very idea of the pain and do our best to batten down the hatches and maintain our status quo as much as possible. But could it be that the wounds we suffer and the scars we bear are what allow us to adapt and flourish in any environment? What if a comfortable life keeps us dormant and our incredible potential bound up and unfulfilled? If Big Poppa can lift his many leaves to the sun and enjoy all this world has to offer him, why can’t we raise our eyes to heavens and appreciate all the growth our pain has brought forth? Instead of seeking to avoid pain, trying to “get over it” and hide our battle scars, I think we should celebrate them and never be afraid of getting new ones, because maybe it’s the battle that made us stronger, and brings us closer to who we were mean to be.