Sunday Opinion: Conclusions

The better part of coming to a conclusion on any matter can be a brilliant move at best, and at worst, a relief. Making a decision based on your best shot at a conclusion enables you to let go, move on-find another topic.  How often have you wanted to go to another topic? I do, regularly.  How you plan to move on-a decision worth some thought. The worst part of coming to a conclusion is once you pile a faulty premise on top of poor communication and observation, and boil this entire mess for hours, you find yourself out in left field alone with nary a chance of snagging a ride home.  Conclusions, to paraphrase, they can be very, very good, or they can be horrid.

There are those living things that do not speak the English language.  Babies, dogs, cats, horses, boxwood, gardens, nature-you get the idea. Some days I would include Buck in this list, or a client that throws me a curve ball.  Drawing conclusions about what is wrong is a gut reaction, an instinct, that regularly misses the mark.  On my mind-my sick boxwood.  The dead patches, the bright orange leaves-in lieu of drawing some conclusion without sufficient knowledge, I sent pictures to an expert at Michigan State University. 

We have had a number of exchanges, each more dysfunctional than the last.  When I sent extensive pictures, I got an email to the effect that there was no evidence of insects or disease. A conclusion on her part. Was there an intent here to close the topic?  I am trying not to make a conclusion, based on her response, of my own.  I know my boxwood out my office door has been the better part of a dream come true for ten years.  Something has gone way wrong.  It is easy to come to the conclusion that the expert in question has other better things to attend to, and has sent a form letter the substance of which is “your problem is not my department” -this I am resisting as best I can.  I know I need to speak to her in person.  Speaking in person is the best antibiotic against the scourge of faulty conclusions I know.  OK, I will call her. It is possible that there is no disease or bugs-that there is a problem that comes under the heading of “none of the above”-I may need to ask her to elaborate, maybe speculate. 

My Corgis have not been sick since they were babies.  Milo came off the plane with kennel cough.  A very rough plane trip from Florida landed him upside down in his kennel-my heart lurched when I went to retrieve him.  The snow at Metro airport was something he had never seen-he looked at me with those intelligent eyes of his.  Of course I drew the conclusion that he was looking to me to scoop him up and protect him from snow; maybe that conclusion was dead to right. But he also coughed all the way home in my lap-I got it right to take him to my vet asap. Howard was in the  fifth incarnation of a moleskin and masking tape apparatus to help his ears stand up; he was lethargic and distressed.  I came to the conclusion he was sick and tired of the whole process.  My comforting did not help him; in the morning I knew my conclusion could not have been further from the truth.  In fact, he had a terrible abdominal infection. I came in from left field in a hurry, and took him first thing to the doctor. I hate that my corgis cannot tell me when something is wrong-I am the responsible party who loves them.  How I draw conclusions-sometimes good, sometimes way off mark.

A garden has a language all its own.  It has taken me a lifetime to assimilate a few of its words, conjugate some of its verbs, learn its first tense, interpret literal translations.  I am better at listening now than I was 30 years ago.  I  make it my business to seek clarification, observe-and know better when to shut up and how to listen.   A beautiful garden takes this kind of energy and time.  There are lots of barriers to beautiful gardens and breathtaking landscapes.  The willingness to put initial conclusions on hold-in my opinion, this is a prerequisite for anyone hoping for a state of gardening grace.  In lieu of that, good gardeners regularly have the good sense to postpone their conclusions until all the evidence is in.  Sometimes, there are no answers. 

Leaping to conclusions takes much less time, and vastly less effort than getting friendly with a new language, or spending time with a living thing that cannot tell you what is wrong-in English, that is.  As much as any gardener expands their skills, their world expands from that experience. Welcome new ideas and embrace change-how easy for me to say! I like to do things how I have always done them; I hate being someplace with no map.  I am not a fan of being lost.

 Look at what is in your view, in spite of what is your instinct to conclude. Make new relationships out in that left field  Gardening friends all over the map-this is good.  Talk much, and exchange even more. Look at your conclusions; do you need throw any of them away?  A landscape has its own story to tell-not every bit of that story comes from you.  Do not be deterred by music that is different than what you are accustomed to.  A great garden sings-not every note comes from you.   All of its notes, no matter the origin, can enchant, or teach. The natural world-symphonic.  Make conclusions, should this seem a good direction.  Ditch your conclusions, should you have unanswered questions.  Given the big garden picture go past those assumptions and premises that are more a habit than a help.  Get up and go past them-this is my opinion.


  1. Rob Beebe says

    Deborah, I loved this Sunday Opinion. You are right about the singing from good gardens and how we must listen more carefully. Well said!

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