Filling the Void

Looking out into the woods behind my house you might see a thick stand of trees, deep green leaves, and dappled sunlight.  I see the void.  That dappled sunlight shines through a clearing made when a massive oak tree snapped in two during a storm earlier this year.  The morning after it happened I walked out to survey the tree, and posted a picture of it on Instagram at the time.

Months later we have sunlight streaming down to the ground where for years there was nothing but shade.  The natural order of things if for the void to be filled, and over time that sunlight will spur growth in the woods as trees that patiently waited their turn accelerate their growth.  There’s an excellent book about this that describe it better than I could.

At this point in my life, I’ve seen enough people depart this earth to understand the analogy that this big oak tree represents.  As the giants in our lives pass we must fill the void left in their absence.  People drift apart or we lose loved ones.  Staying connected is challenging, and ironically the technology that connects us more easily creates disconnections in other ways.  Having a conversation and making eye contact with someone is in our DNA.  Texting or liking a post on Facebook isn’t quite enough.  As I get older I recognize my own role in filling the void more than ever.  Empathy and love are the cornerstones, but being present to recognize and help fill that void are essential.  So I’m trying to be more present and see the voids that I previously hadn’t.

Earlier this month I glanced over at the empty flower box on the shed in my backyard.  The builder wasn’t thinking about gardeners when he or she built it, they were thinking about quickly tacking something on the front of the shed and moving on to the next shed.  As a result the flower box is undersized, which requires extra care in watering and feeding plants you put in it.  Compounding this is that the shady corner of the yard the shed sits in doesn’t give enough light for many annuals that you might put in a flower pot like this.  As a result I usually hadn’t bothered with planting anything in it.

This year I decided to fill this little void in my backyard garden and sought out shade loving plants that could thrive in this tiny ecosystem stapled to vinyl siding.  Buying plants for me is a lot like playing music.  With music I usually know what to play at the time based on the mood of the room and the audience (well, as long as the audience likes music I like).  With gardening I usually know it when I see it.  Sometimes I get it horribly wrong, but most of the time the garden forgives me (even if teenagers won’t forgive my playlists at times).

The resulting fuchsia and coleus combination has indeed thrived in this flower box.  A once blank space in the garden has become a favorite spot for me.  And the hummingbirds seem to appreciate the addition as well.  Sometimes the voids in our lives announce themselves abruptly, and sometimes they’re right in front of you for years.  I’m glad to have filled this one.