The One That Got Away

On Christmas Day, I returned to the garden.

It has been about a month since I have spent any real time there except to rake and do light cleanup.

That’s what happens when foster puppies come to call.

Little Daisy—now Gabby—was with us for a month. Arriving at only seven weeks, she had already been passed around and surrendered for the birth defect on her eye.

At 11 weeks, she was healthy and fat and strong enough for her surgery.

Her eye was removed as the hairy tissue had grown to cover nearly 90 percent of her cornea and was extending to her lower lid. She sees better now without the constant obstacle blocking her view. She recovered quickly and was home in time for Christmas—her new mama’s bundle of joy (and potty-obstinance!).

Happy life, little girl.

In Northern California, we don’t put the garden to bed for the winter as much as we tidy up.

There is still color and foliage to admire –

but work to be done.

When the blossoms fall, the bees finally retreat enough to find the source of the pesky Bermuda grass. The damp ground Is much more gracious about giving up the fugitives it harbors – abolishing all excuses. As the leaves shed, the structure of the garden comes into view. It’s time to start editing select trees and shrubs being careful to leave basal foliage growth protected against expected frost.

Time is measured by the passing seasons –

and the growth of foster pups.

Lily was one of this year’s foster puppies. One that I never wrote about. Not because she was not memorable – but because she was too much so.

People ask how my husband and I can foster puppies and never want to keep them. We had never been tempted. We see ourselves as a part of their journey. Their parting is bitter sweet but we are excited for their new families. Our house is full of doggie love and we know that keeping one might prevent us from helping more.

But Lily was different.

At eight weeks of age, she was found “stray” in a parking lot with a broken leg and taken to an area shelter. Thankfully, she came to us quickly in time to do surgery and save her leg. The photo I took upon her arrival is heartbreaking.

She recovered at our president’s home until she reached a point where she needed regular swim therapy to help rebuild the atrophied muscle around her still growing bones.

So she came home with us where we could swim her in our pool multiple times throughout the day.

We fell in love immediately.

She gained strength quickly. Too quickly. Before we knew it, she had been promised.

She is the one that got away.

Lily has an incredible mom and dad, and to be honest, a life more full of adventures than we could have provided. She could not be more loved and doted on. That is what we want for all of our foster babes.

Still, I keep her photo on my desktop. And when she came to visit this weekend, I was filled with joy and tears.

She is where she is supposed to be. And so am I. In the garden awaiting the next foster arrival.

Plant Flowers in Others’ Gardens

A daylily pops into the garden for but a single day. Collectively, they make a big impact, but individually, their time is fleeting.

Serving the bees briefly, they take their leave as the sun sets, as if to say “Hello. I’m here. My job was to be beautiful. Now, I bid you adieu..”

Brief as their stay is, it’s a valued contribution that adds to the whole.

Recently, someone who knows that I have worked and volunteered with different nonprofits asked me where she might also offer some time. With kids gone and an empty house, she felt her world getting smaller. She wanted to find an organization where she could contribute and become part of a “tribe” – forming a new, extended family – some place, people, and cause she could belong to.

“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” ~ Mohammed Ali

She wanted to do something meaningful – not menial – and to be part of a team. But the work had to fit into her life without feeling obligated. She had her job, her gym, her house, and yard. So maybe once a month – but no commitment.

I listened and smiled. There are many volunteer jobs where you can pop in here and there, including at Homeward Bound. Your contribution will be truly valued as a part of the whole – just as the daylily is. But don’t be surprised if you find yourself still searching for that depth of connection – your tribe.

It takes time to be taught – and to learn – a key role in a volunteer organization. Somehow, we have become so wrapped up in our individual lives that we have forgotten the power of showing up. Don’t expect a ‘here-and-there’ effort to have the same personal impact as things that develop over time.

Work you are invested in – and watch unfold – creates deeper ties and bonds.

Becoming part of something larger than yourself requires presence – and commitment. No matter the cause.

A coming together. Not because someone is holding you accountable. But because you have a love and passion for the work and the difference it makes.

The presence need not be physical; there are many key roles volunteers can assume from a distance or from home. But you are engaged – for the celebrations, frustrations, joys – and sorrows. You are a part of the magic that makes the impossible, possible.

When you give of yourself, you find that sense of purpose, and you discover yourself surrounded by others who share that passion. Before you know it, you have found your tribe.

“In giving you are throwing a bridge across the chasm of your solitude.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Wisdom of the Sands

Not everyone has time for a significant commitment. That’s OK. Give what you can. But to find what my acquaintance is missing, expect to give a little more. Trust me. You will be rewarded ten-fold.

“Plant flowers in others’ gardens and your life becomes a bouquet!” ~ Author Unknown