Taking Ourselves Off Automatic

September 2nd, 2011 by Ann

[Dear Friends letter from our sister site Isabella Catalog.]

I’m having an issue with the trees and plants in my back yard. After over 10 years of everything thriving, something’s not right. Several of my favorite trees are starting to die, and the arborists I’ve consulted speculate that the trees are just getting so much water that the soil doesn’t have a chance to dry out enough to suit these particular trees.

The solution? Completely turn off the irrigation system and water by hand, selectively giving more or less water to appropriate parts of the yard. ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’ was my first reaction. I’m used to my sprinklers coming on every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. For 5 minutes. In the dark of night. While I’m sleeping and not even aware that anything is going on out there. So convenient. So automatic. So clean and hassle-free.

But you know what? It turns out that the mandate to get outside and hand-water my yard is the best thing that could have happened to me (yard-wise, anyway). As I stand there with hose in hand, looking, really looking, at each and every plant and tree, I find myself infinitely more connected to my little corner of nature. I marvel at how abundant and big the succulents have gotten since I planted them 2 years ago. Time to divide them and give them more breathing room. I notice the Staghorn Fern isn’t doing so well in the spot I had it, and I search out a better place for it. The delicate spray of my hose finds and showcases a perfect and exquisite spider web I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. The Gardenia needs some fertilizer, and, whoa, there’s a bird’s nest I hadn’t noticed!

I never would have believed it, but I don’t mind one bit — enjoy, in fact — having to take a chunk out of my day to do what something automated has been doing for years. It connects me in a real way with something that needs my attention. It makes me see and appreciate so many things I would have never had the pleasure to experience. It reminds me that if I am going to care about something, I have to be prepared to truly care for it.

In this day and age we have so many opportunities to put ourselves and our schedules on ‘automatic’ so we can get even more accomplished. Some of this technology is heaven-sent and I wouldn’t give it up for the world. But going through this ‘watering-by-hand’ experience has shown me that if at least once in a while we actively do something that was once being done for us, and don’t feel put out about it,we might actually be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Read more Isabella Dear Friends Letters here.

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