Lessons in change, from the dead plant that wasn’t

After a full month away from home in July while I house-sat for a friend, I guess it wasn’t entirely surprising that the little sage plant outside my front door finally decided to call it a day.

When I left, it had been greenly abundant, but when I returned it was little more than a few scant twigs poking up from the wooden box of soil in which it had eked out its existence.

With nobody to water it, there was little hope of it surviving.

Or so you might think.

You see, I decided to not give up on that little plant.

As you can tell by me leaving a plant to fend for itself in the hot California sun for a month, I’m really not much of a gardener.

However, my instincts told me that, just maybe, a rescue mission might be possible.

Bending the plant’s dry stalks, I snapped off those that appeared dried out beyond repair, clearing the box so its only inhabitant was the stumpy little sage plant.

I then started watering it every day.

Not too much, but daily, like clockwork.

As you might expect, for several days nothing happened at all, beyond the soil starting to take on a healthier dark colour, in contrast to its former pallid ash-like appearance.

But then, miracle of miracles, after a week of watering, the tiniest, weeniest green leaves started sprouting from what had looked like a completely dead stem.

Another few days later, those microscopic leaves had grown, and had been joined by others.

While bringing the sage plant back to life feels like a genuine small win, perhaps the greatest value of this little experience has been to remind me of four important steps that enable transformation of some kind to happen.

I’m pretty sure that this can apply to people like you and me, just as well as it does to sage plants.

First, there needed it to be hope.

If I’d believed I’d be wasting my time on the plant, I wouldn’t have begun its attempted rejuvenation.

Equally, if you want to experience a change of some kind in yourself, it seems important to believe that change is indeed possible.

The second step involved clearing away the dead growth.

Perhaps the parallel for us as humans is that we should do our level best to repress the negative thoughts that threaten to interfere with the change we desire.

Being aware of them is a good start. Saying no to them may be hard, but it’s not impossible.

Step three in Operation Sage involved consistently watering every day.

Human change demands much the same, I think.

Creating a new habit, for example, means doing something every day, showing determined persistence.

The final piece of the jigsaw with the sage bush was to be patient, not expecting to see immediate results.

I’m sure this is equally true when we want to experience some kind of change in our own lives.

Since it’s probably not going to happen overnight, it’s sensible to allow things to take their own due time.

What worked for the plant may also be a good approach for you and me, therefore:

1. Have hope.

2. Clear the way for change.

3. Be persistent.

4. Have patience.

Perhaps these four steps will prompt you to consider a transformation of your own?

Whatever happens, though, I’m happy to credit my plucky little plant for its, well, sage advice.

15 thoughts on “Lessons in change, from the dead plant that wasn’t

  1. And you now have your reward, not only pretty and fragrant but tasty too. Your own reminder by your front door so it can remind you every day. Mine’s in my back garden and quite healthy, thank you, but I’m going to use it as my own reminder now. I may also lightly fry a few leaves and crumble them over pasta with toasted pine nuts and parmesan. Have a great day, and thanks x

  2. Wow wisdom like this comes always at the very right time and a sage plant too linking of course to sage advice, much blessings to you : )

  3. Hope, persistence, and patience. The trifecta of change all life coaches teach. But you added a fourth: “clearing away the dead growth.” This is my stumbling block. It’s always been difficult for me to “repress the negative thoughts.” They’re like a broken record, playing over and over. My dark guru of self-sabotage.

    Your sage reminds me of a popular song from childhood. I doubt Art Garfunkel’s ballad would have worked with only parsley, rosemary, and thyme. The haunting melody needs all four. Just as working towards change needs the removal of the old broken record.

    Thank you, Jon, for another enlightening tale.

    1. Such a rich set of thoughts, Judi.

      You’re right, it’s much, much easier to write about repressing negative thoughts than it is to actually send them packing.

      Always worth a try, however—although right now I’m off to listen to Scarborough Fair. Thanks for the happy suggestion.

  4. Once again a timely lesson. You have the uncanny ability to bring me to my senses at just the right time Jon!
    I have just experienced a great disappointment in my professional life, not getting an interview for a role that I really felt was going to be “the one”. Your story has reminded me that my chances for success are not dead in the water (or without water more appropriately to your story) and that hope, persistence and patience may lead to something better…even a change!

  5. Thank you Jon
    This is lovely. Yes don’t let hope die and don’t give up on ourselves . Totally agree. Well said. Beautiful words

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