New Year resolutions or not, I find that January, despite its cold wet greyness in the UK, is a time of reflection, renewal and intention setting for the months, and perhaps years, ahead; a time for planting new seeds or attending to those that may have been sown a while ago and are in need of some attention. It is a time of year that I love; nature reminding us of fresh beginnings, new growth and future possibilities. Snowdrops, near where I work, have been doing their thing for weeks, the birds seem to be singing more loudly and if you look closely enough there is sprouting, shooting, budding going on all over the place.
This is also an exciting time for gardeners like me, as the seed catalogues dropped through the letter box, soon after the Christmas cards, I start visioning how my garden could look if all these objects of desire where to flower there. However, it isn’t yet warm enough for seeds to germinate – they are waiting patiently beneath the soil, until the conditions are right for them to create the new life that is mysteriously held within them.
Recently a coachee, as we completed our coaching relationship, handed me a thank you gift that was one of the most beautiful and thoughtful gifts I have ever received. It was a collection of individually packaged varieties of plant seeds that she had collected from her garden visits around the country.
I had been working with her as a coach for several months and, having done some coaching work outdoors, she had become familiar with my love of nature. It got me thinking about the significance of seeds, literally – as the source of the food we eat and oxygen we breath, and metaphorically – all great things being contained initially within the kernel of a single idea.
Some seeds result in plants that are annuals – they grow quickly and flower enthusiastically all summer in order to set seed for their future generations before they die with the onset of autumn. Some take many years to reach maturity and the point at which they are ready to flower and set seed. As any gardener will tell you, all the best intentions, horticultural expertise and seemingly favourable weather patterns will not guarantee that all your seeds germinate or thrive. We can sow, thin out, prune, feed and nurture, and hope that things will blossom or result in a bumper harvest. Some things will exceed our expectations others will fail – despite our best efforts. When I walk through the woodland near where I live and inspect for damage after a storm, I am reminded that occasionally life’s sometimes cruel winds will blow and all the effort that has been put into something will be gone. This seems to me to be a lesson in accepting what is, and being ready to plant new seeds. As a gardener, I love the whole process – the fruits of my labours usually make up for the occasional ‘failure’. I am perhaps less philosophical with how I judge success or failure in other parts of my life!
So, creating new life and bringing our ideas to fruition is not a straightforward process. Having clear intentions and goals are undoubtedly important, but so is having the patience and commitment to continue with things that are important to us to, despite the difficulties. In our industrialised societies that increasingly value speed, results and instant gratification, there is perhaps less value placed on spending our time on things that do not result in immediate reward.
I love this quote:
“Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
― Anonymous Greek Proverb
We may not necessarily live to see all the impacts of our actions on the World, which could be as big as founding an organisation or as simple as making a suggestion to a teenager or showing kindness to someone who is in need.
So, some thoughts to leave you with…
What seeds are you planting?
Are you ‘sowing the seeds of love’ (as the song goes), success, happiness, what is most important to you?
What ideas or dreams do you have that are waiting to be given the right conditions to germinate?
What weeding might need to be done for your life to blossom?
How will I notice which of my ideas or projects needs more investment (time, money, energy) and which needs different conditions to flourish?
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
– Robert Louis Stevenson