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16 Life Lessons You Can Learn From Plants

Even poo has a job to do.

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1. Sometimes the thing you think is over isn't really over.

One summer, I bought a beautiful red bromeliad that I named Beatriz after my Brazilian aunt, whom I missed desperately. It started dying as soon as I got it. It became a sad, brown dead thing that symbolized failure so I took it outside and forgot about it. The fall came and went, the snow fell and melted and the following spring I decided to deal with the sad dead plant once and for all.

When I dug my fingers into the earth, I discovered a bunch of bulbs that had been beneath the bromeliad the whole time! For almost a year, through a freezing winter, after being forgotten and dejected and ignored, those bulbs were just sitting there, waiting to bust out.

They bloomed into bright orange lillies that poked their cheerful little heads above the other flowers. They'd been waiting the whole time to get their chance. It's never over, even when you think it's over.

2. Unexpected obstacles can be beautiful and even delicious.

There's a reason that we use plants to flavor our food: Thyme, mint, oregano and many, many other herbs are as sturdy and fierce as we are as humans. They grow in tough corners and in cracks in the sidewalks, and for thousands of years, humanity has used them to bring flavor to their food and healing to their bodies. Herbs are weeds and weeds are ancient and strong.

3. There is a time to give up.

So...I guess there's no point continuing to water this right? #gardeningfail

And that's okay! Sometimes the letting go of the thing is the lesson you have to learn from the thing itself.


4. Sometimes things work out, sometimes they fail. Both experiences are worth it.

My homegrown celery is hanging it's head in shame. No stalk is wider than a pencil. #gardeningfail #gardenchat

There is nothing quite like spending months and months trying to grow something only to have it stolen just before its prime by a squirrel with a vendetta. Giving up control when something fails and starting over, or even just tolerating the process of failure is a really important thing. To fail you have to take a risk. To fail you have to try. Trying is meaningful.

5. Priorities are hard.

"As your garden grows so does your love for it" except when we go on holiday and forget about it. #gardeningfail

Balance can be even harder. Trying to make time for the things that you need to feel safe, happy and taken care of is really important.

6. Success looks different on everyone.

Creative Commons / Flickr / Via Flickr: kpaulus

The very same circumstances can affect each plant differently. One might thrive in intense sunshine without being watered while others need more shade and lots of water. Whatever you're up against and whatever gifts you've been given are entirely yours. When you want to compare your successes and failures with other people's, it helps to remember that you might need different things to succeed. You're a rose and they're a tomato. You're parsley and they're a succulent. You do you, bb.

7. Even poop has a job to do.

Sometimes you're really ~in it~ and everything is kind of terrible. In these moments, you can remember that poop helps the plants grow, and being in the shit can help you grow, too. (It can also make your safari experience far more exciting.)


8. Getting dirty is part of it.

Keeping your plants happy and healthy is rewarding. But there's also real beauty in the moment when there's soil under your nails, all over your face, on the kitchen floor and tracked all over the house. Making a mess (and arguably being a mess) can be really, really fun.

9. There is power in silence.

Brian W. Ferry for Dwell Magazine / Via

Plants react to the world around them, but they move at their own pace. They don't need career advice or break up with each other via text, they just do their thing. There is power in silence and you don't have to please everybody.

10. You never know how deep the roots go, so be gentle.

CBS Films / Via

There are big plants with small roots and tiny plants whose roots just won't quit. People are like that, too. You don't know by looking at somebody how deeply they're feeling their struggle. When in doubt, be gentle — roots are what make plants stand up tall. You never know how deep a person's roots go, either.

11. Your enemies don't always fight fair.

A squirrel might take a huge bite of the tomato you were going to pick tomorrow. A deer might eat your entire yard. Your landlord might throw away the basil you were trying to grow on your fire escape.

It's hard to know when the thing you're up against will attack. It's unfair and hard to accept (not to mention frustrating and expensive) but those moments when you lose can show you how much you care. Caring is risky, but it shows how high the stakes are.


12. Giving feels good.

Creative Commons / Via Flickr: mindwhisperings

Growing a gift from scratch tells people you put care and love into something you want them to have. What's just a sprig of insanely fast-growing mint to you can be a really sweet little present for a friend or coworker you appreciate. Plus, it's pretty much free!

13. Beauty is more diverse than you can even imagine.

Each and every plant evolved over time to be its own little unique self. Whether it has thorns or flowers, if it's a reedy grass or a sturdy weed, each plant brings its own value to the ecosystem. So when you're heading into a self-criticism spiral, remember that what you bring to the world is of unique value because *you* bring it. You sexy little flower beast.

14. You don't have to go it alone.

Life can be lonely and isolating. Everything is sometimes garbage. But the thing plants do really well is that they grow in tandem with the ecosystem around them. The people around you are part of your ecosystem. Sharing your struggle with the people who love you can make it feel lighter and more manageable. (And if the struggle is crushing you, there are some resources here and here.)

15. Reach for the light when you can find it. / Via

When a plant isn't getting enough light, it does the slow, daily work of literally growing in the direction of the nourishment it needs. Growing towards the people and things that bring you light, even when you feel like you're in the dark, is difficult but worth it.

16. Small growth is still growth.


Making changes in your life — whether it means remembering to water a plant or remembering that you are a worthy person — is hard. Doing things little by little is still doing the things, so applaud the tiny victories. Even a giant tree started as a little seed.

Thumbnail image: Thinkstock / Monique Bartley