Sleep. Creep. Leap


I love this adage that describes the growing process of perennial plants. It was created so that we can understand and accept their growing process and remind us to have patience with them. In the first year as a plant “sleeps”, it is settling in and putting most of its energy into developing a strong root system, beginning a slow, steady growth pattern. The second year it “creeps”, continuing to develop its root system, but also being strong enough to divert some of its energy above ground. We see some growth, but most of the activity is still happening underground. Then, in the third year the plant “leaps”. This is when the root system is so well-established that the majority of the growth is above ground and we can now really see who and what the plant truly is.

This is good for me to remember as I tend to be impatient. I want things in full-bloom now. I want to see my efforts of planting today. But Nature has its own time line, its own way, its own rhythm.

Have you heard about the rare “super bloom” of wildflowers happening in Death Valley Park right now? Death Valley is the hottest place on the earth and the driest in North America. The valley does bloom a little every year in the spring, but with rare Fall rains, the abundance of flowers this year is extremely unusual. The last time there was a bloom of this magnitude was in 2005. In that year some flowers blossomed that had never been seen in the park. Can you imagine? Those tiny delicate seeds lying dormant year after year in the hot, scorching desert, just waiting for enough rain to come along so that they could come alive and grow.

"Moving Still", 48" x 30"

"Moving Still", 48" x 30"

What else is out there waiting to grow? We really don’t have a clue of what’s happening underground. With plants, or with us. We may think we have something we want to do but it’s just not happening. Or we may think we’re working towards something but we’re not getting there fast enough, if at all. But, that may not be true. We may very well be absorbing, developing, and strengthening until the time is right for us to bloom.  

I’ve experienced this very thing with my art. For years, I carried the thought of wanting to be an artist, but I didn’t know what I wanted to say. Or if, or how, I could even do it. Would I be a painter, or something else? Would my subject or medium be this or that? I knew it was in there somewhere and I was so incredibly frustrated that I couldn’t figure it out and bring it out now. I talked to friends, artists, attended workshops, read books, and did an enormous amount of writing and soul searching. And then, slowly over time, it started to develop and germinate. I entered a phase where I was actually able to produce something. Looking back over that time, I now see that it was my “sleep” period. I was settling in and working on who I was, what I was going to say and how I wanted to do it. And, I see that the minute I had the thought of wanting to be an artist, I had planted the seed. However long it took to begin to come to life was how long it needed to take. It was my timeline. Every thing and every one’s way is different, just like in Nature.

My husband has become an avid practioner of T'ai Chi Chih and recently shared this with me:
T’ai Chi Chih- A moving meditation
“In China, there is a type of bamboo that doesn’t appear to grow at all for the first four years. It just develops a massive root structure while the shoot barely shows. In the fifth year it grows eighty feet. Many things in life are like that Chinese bamboo. You may not see any initial evidence that what you are about is making a difference, but, if you persist, eventually, a tremendous harvest will result.” --Anonymous