Never Pull Up and Discard What You Cannot Identify


Photo by Kathryn Hall


Readers of my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden will be familiar with this, one of 52 such metaphorical lessons: “Never pull up and discard what you cannot identify,” an invitation to not pre-judge that which enters your life that seems unfamiliar. “The Lord works in mysterious ways,” as we know. The blessings in our lives can show up in many different unexpected packages. So when I planted morning glory seeds in March on a rosy obelisk, well away from the rest of the garden, so it could not overcome whatever was growing nearby, I thought I was so clever both to get a head start, and to plant in a trouble-free spot. Imagine my surprise when what emerged were clearly not morning glories. For weeks I remained befuddled by what came up, and how, but the only “logical” explanation was that the morning glory seeds did not come up, but something that had lain dormant, waiting, did. But what? Reluctantly, I continued to water the mysterious seedlings, seeking patience, fostering curiosity, attempting to transcend my annoyance that my vision for my lovely blue flowers climbing the white obelisk was not to be. But what were they? For the longest time I didn’t have a clue. And then suddenly, out of the blue, I had a solid moment of surprised recognition. “I think those are hollyhocks!” I found myself thinking. Stunned. Incredulous. Hollyhocks? Two dozen in one spot? How could that be? I ran to the back of the garden and picked a large hollyhock leaf from my established hollyhocks, and ran back to compare. Indeed. Impossible to imagine, yet there it was. Identical. So the truth of the matter is that I planted morning glory seeds from my glass bottle of collected seeds from last year, still in their husks, some of them, and what emerged were a myriad of hollyhock seeds. Not a single morning glory seed among them.

For doubters (easy to imagine) let me assure you that I know my way around flat, round, dry, paperlike hollyhock seeds and hard dark morning glory seeds in their dry husks. No question. But there you have it. The only (near impossible) explanation is that I’d chosen a dry patch of earth away from the main garden, a place that never gets watered beyond rain, and beneath that seeming barren spot were the seeds of someone else’s long ago garden just awaiting that exact set of circumstances to take place.

Eventually the familiar buds appeared and then the mystery remained about what color flower would emerge. As fate would have it, they were white, the only white hollyhocks in  the garden (and nothing I would elect to purchase), further substantiating they had been someone else’s choice. I might imagine a bird had brought them in, had the plant not been so full!

This year they are back and even larger, so we will be enjoying another round of white hollyhocks among the pinks and reds.

So let’s ponder for a moment, shall we?  For I am writer who thinks metaphorically. What beauty, what gift, what treasure lies within you, or your children, or your spouse, or your best friends, or your students, invisibly, that is awaiting the perfect conditions to make itself gloriously known, adding to the blessings that surround you? This is something impossibly close, something you are apparently oblivious to. This gift would be content to lie beneath the earth for a long long time. It has no scheduled agenda. However, with the right amount of tending, of rain, of warmth, of sunshine, it might surprise you.

It is time, apparently, for us to suspend what we tell ourselves, what our natural expectations are, and to open to the possibility that all is not precisely what we think, how we see things. It might be different. Or better. Or unexpected. And a bigger outcome than we imagined. Better than we could have thought up for ourselves. It happens. What a miracle and blessing that the garden stands ready to remind us at any time.

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Kathryn Hall is the author of Plant Whatever Brings You Joy.  For more information please visit Books are available on Amazon, in Barnes and Noble and indie stores around the country.



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2 responses to “Never Pull Up and Discard What You Cannot Identify

  1. alice quintin

    A beautiful thought

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