“I’d love to take voice lessons with you,” she said to me after the workshop ended, “but I bet you don’t have time.”
And me? I said…well, not much. I kinda mumbled something.
And that might have been the end of that, except that this whole scene was witnessed by my dear husband, who later said, “She approached you. She asked about learning with you. And you blew her off. Why did you do that?”
Why indeed? Why had I shied away from connecting with this person who was expressing interest in learning with me? What might help me take a different, more growthful approach?
And then, upon reflection, it all came clear: I gotta learn this one from the seedlings!
The last few summers we’ve grown tomatoes from seed. Even though our garden only has room for a handful of tomato plants, I always plant a whole tray of seedlings — a miniature forest of palest green and white. They sprout and grow atop a little table inconveniently placed in our bedroom — the sunniest spot in the house. It’s such a joy to watch them and I love witnessing every day of their short time inside. They need only the gentlest of waterings from me. Everything else they’ve got: sun, soil, and their own plans for just how to grow.
I want to respond to new possibilities and connections in my work in the world the same way I respond to these sweet seedlings.
I know my seedlings won’t all make it to maturity. Some will fail to thrive, others I will “thin” myself because they are not the best picks for the garden. But that doesn’t diminish either the care I show or the enjoyment I get from them.
So too, when someone asks about my work, I can respond from a place of attentively nourishing that connection without feeling like I’m either instantly relying on them to bear tremendous fruit or instantly obligating myself to anything more on my end.
Seedlings need only the lightest of touches, a gentle sprinkle is all I provide them, the rest they’ve either already got onboard or they just soak it up from the sun. So too with new possibilities for my work: send that email, offer what I have to offer, and then…let it go and let it grow (or not) as it will.
Seeing my tomato seedlings bending toward the sun fills my heart with huge joy and musings about the miracles of new life. I am in awe at the power of tiny seeds to grow, to push their way up through soil, to take the rawest of materials and make more of themselves. The next time someone asks me about whether I have time to teach them or how much I charge or any other inquiry, I can enjoy that moment of connection simply as it is. I can let the tentativeness of those moments warm my heart. I love my seedlings because of, not despite, their tenderness. My appreciation doesn’t come from any signed-on-a-dotted-line promise of bearing future fruit. I love them as they are.
How do you care for the seedlings sprouting right now in your art, in your work, in your life?