There is a poem by Taylor Mali called “How Falling in Love is like Owning a Dog,” which is an excellent read for all four-legged-friend lovers in a committed relationship. It describes how dogs, like relationships, require never-ending love, attention and hard work, despite the messes they may make along the way.
This poem was read at my wedding four years ago, and as I recently revisited it, reflecting on its deeper meaning, it inspired me to think about the other relationships in my life that require tending to. I immediately thought of friendship because, as a new Mom, I have made an abundance of new friends this past year, for which I am incredibly grateful.
It was when someone asked me, “How did you make so many new friends this past year?” that I truly thought about the effort that goes into fostering these special bonds. This led me to the association between gardening and friendship. I may not have a green thumb in the garden, but I do believe I am a master gardener of planting, pruning and nurturing friendship.
There is a quote on a magnet my Mom received from her childhood best friend that reads, “If friends were like flowers, I would pick you first.” I can remember imagining who I would pick to fill my bouquet of friends whenever I read the magnet, and I think the bouquet changed quite frequently, as seasons of flowers often do.
As I reflect on my garden of friends from which I would pick this bouquet, I can identify the annuals, the perennials, the strong-rooted shrubs and the more delicate seedlings that are just starting to grow. The garden has certainly changed with each season of my life, but as I reflect on these seasons, I can see how they have been necessary for my garden’s development and growth.
Winter is chilly, grey and sometimes fierce. There are bright, sunny days, but winter can often feel long. The snow covering the ground almost acts as a blank slate—there are no colourful flowers and mainly bare trees.
To me, this blank slate reminds me of elementary and early high school—the days of trying to figure out who we were as individuals, but also whom we wanted to surround ourselves with. There were also blizzards during which ‘trying to fit in’ could cause whiteout situations, blocking our view of the true friendships we didn’t know were right in front of us.
But with the changing of the seasons, the snow melts, new growth appears and the friendship slate isn’t so blank anymore. Despite the frequent storms along the way, childhood friends are often the shrubs that stay strongly rooted in our lives for quite some time.
Spring is an exciting time, with much change, growth and emerging colour. Uplifting energy fills the air as the birds sing and flowers begin to bud.
To me, this season of transition between winter and summer equates to the friends made at college/university and in young adulthood. This is a time of such youthful energy that the flowers are bursting with vibrant colour and are quite hearty like a tulip or daffodil.
When I think of my springtime friends, I think of those who have been with me through some of life’s most exciting events—moving away from home for the first time, starting a career and getting married, just to name a few. These are the friends who helped me blossom into the person I am today.
There is often a blurred time between spring and summer when it is unclear when one season ends and the other begins—the sun continues to shine and brings much-welcomed warmth.
The steady, warm days and the watering and care needed to maintain a flourishing summer garden is relatable to the current season of my life—motherhood.
Flowers that popped up during spring remain in bloom and continue to flourish throughout summer. But summer is also a time when new growth starts to appear from beneath the soil, due to the sun’s warmth, from seeds that have been planted for this year’s garden.
It is in summer that I believe my season of friendship currently resides. As a new Mom, the excitement of spring isn’t far in the distant past, but the steady, warm days and the watering and care needed to maintain a flourishing summer garden is relatable to the current season of my life—motherhood.
As I circle back to the initial question that led me to reflect on the seasons of friendship, I can honestly say I worked hard to plant seeds of friendship during the initial months of my maternity leave. I gave my cell phone number to those who showed interest in me, started a Facebook group to organize play dates with other Moms in the area and began attending social nights for Moms without the little ones.
I started out with one or two new friends, which quickly flourished into many more. This wasn’t because the friendships I already had weren’t supporting my needs; it was because I knew this was an opportunity to add new colour and variety to the existing design of my garden.
I was also aware that developing new friendships with other Moms (with little ones the same age as my son) would benefit him as well—something I knew would be important for both of us in the years to come.
Although I planted many new friendship seeds during my new season of motherhood, I know some are annuals and some are perennials. Although I am enjoying the presence of the annuals, I have identified the perennials that will thrive in any of nature’s elements for years ahead.
By sending regular text messages to say a quick “hello” or organizing social outings for our little families to bond, I am giving these friends the energy and care that’s needed to build strength for the inevitable change of season to come.
Although I can’t personally speak for what my garden of friends looks like in the season of fall, because I am still basking in the summer rays, I can imagine what it may look like.
As anyone with children knows, life can get busy when you need to balance personal, career, family and relationship demands. With that, a garden can sometimes get neglected and a little bit weedy or overgrown, but the flowers are still there.
I have no doubt in my mind that the new friendships formed in the summer season will mature into fall. Represented by the falling leaves on trees, there may be some falling-out of friendships as priorities take us down different paths. However, the strongly rooted shrubs will stand tall, the tulip and daffodil bulbs will remain planted beneath the soil and the summer perennials will always be counted on to blossom in the years to come.