816 North

Susan Vollenweider | Have faith, keep watering

The first time I walked into Kathy’s backyard I had garden envy. From ground cover to towering shade trees, everything was so lush. So mature. So green. So … much.

That’s why I was there that day.

Kathy’s house and gardens had been in her family for years, and landscape that long-loved often needs thinning. She had some volunteer saplings, little babies of her mature trees, growing in flower beds. “Just come dig them up,” she offered when I had told her that our new house in a new subdivision had no shade.

I was fairly new to gardening then, but when she told me that this particular tree was fast growing I threw a shovel and a bucket in the back of my car and headed to her house.

As I dug up a couple of trees I asked for advice on how to best plant them.

“Get them in the ground as quickly as you can, then water them every day until you see new growth. Don’t worry what the tree looks like. Just keep doing that.”

I followed the advice but called her a few days later.

“One tree doesn’t look very good,” I worried. “It’s dropping leaves and looking droopy.”

“You did everything right. Have faith and keep watering,” she assured me. Her confidence was a whole lot stronger than mine. I did what she said.

A few days later the tree didn’t look as droopy.

A few days after that I saw a baby leaf.

Now, a few years after it was planted, that tiny sapling that I dug from Kathy’s yard is as tall as my house. No longer a sapling, of course, it celebrates the arrival of spring with a flashy show of honey-scented flowers and giant, heart-shaped leaves.

Last year it started to lose a lot of those leaves. This summer it looks better, but not much.

Kathy came over and we surveyed the struggling tree. I told her another friend’s theory: a one-two punch of last summer’s drought and a late spring freeze had affected it. I confessed that I didn’t deep-water as I probably should have, but now I was tending to its recuperation by pruning off dead branches, snipping off suckers and giving it a nice blanket of mulch.

“I know: Have faith and keep watering,” I told her. She smiled.

How many times since planting that tree had I clung to that very advice?

When a new project was messy and far from complete, the goal a fuzzy, far-off image in my brain.

When my kids misbehaved and I wanted to act rashly, yet managed to maintain some sense of patience.

When our marriage hit some snags.

When friendships challenged, and walking away from them seemed the easiest thing to do.

Have faith, keep watering, I told myself.

Keep learning and developing new skills.

Keep the big picture of parenting in mind when dealing with all the little struggles along the way.

Keep loving a person when they are acting unlovable, hoping that they will do the same for me.

Have faith, keep watering.

It’s not about faith in God, although it can be; it’s not about actual water, although it can be. It’s a belief in doing everything in my power to nurture.

Failure is an option; needs are constantly changing, but if I have belief in the goal, faith in the process and thoughtfully water? Success stands a chance. With children half-grown and a lot of life ahead I know there are many unforeseen times I will be muttering a powerful motto:

Have faith, keep watering.