Living Like Perennials

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When we moved into our Virginia home, our backyard boasted peonies, sunflowers, and a profusion of lilies. I couldn’t wait to see daffodils bloom in the spring.

Spring came and went, however, and no spring bulbs appeared. It was obviously my job to plant daffodils in the garden, if I wanted to enjoy them. Yet with babies, toddlers, book writing, house projects, and what have you, I kept putting off the planting work. Years came and went, and I never bought my bulbs.

This year, we decided we were going to sell our home. I looked around my garden and felt sad. This garden would lack daffodils for at least another spring. I’d never gotten around to it, and my chance had passed.

But I was wrong.

I had mentioned our lack of daffodils to a dear neighbor. On my next walk through our neighborhood, she beckoned to me and said she had uprooted some of her own daffodils and put them in a pot on her porch. They were for me—or, more accurately, for our house. The beautiful double-flowered daffodils, covered in ruffles, were a stunning buttery yellow. I carried them back home and planted them with an overwhelming sense of gratitude, and a corresponding sense of sadness, because (due to my own procrastination) I would not get to see them bloom next spring.

I had only just finished a conversation with some friends about my book, and we’d agreed that while we don’t always get to stay in one place, it’s important to live in places as if we’ll die there, investing as much energy, love, and care into our homes as we can. If we’re to be more than “boomers” and exploiters of place, we should love our communities and landscapes for their own sakes. This is what “living like a perennial” should look like: having an attitude of longevity and love that fights back against the consumerism of our age, and against that incessant internal voice that asks, petulantly, “How does this benefit me?”

If I had planted my spring bulbs sooner, I would have been able to enjoy them. But, as I dug down deep and planted the bulbs, I realized that wasn’t the point at all. The point was that daffodils would be here, adding beauty that hadn’t existed before. If it was my responsibility to love my home like a perennial, I would love it until the day I left it behind. I would practice love in a way that (hopefully) blessed the home itself, the land itself, and the people who came there after me.

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