It seem to me that life is full of disappointments, that is, something doesn’t turn out the way we planned, envisioned, hoped for, worked towards, or expected. When that happens, we can get a feeling of frustration, resentment, or even futility – the “why even bother” reaction, particularly when we have invested considerable effort only to realize that investment doesn’t give us the results we wanted.
That’s what I was thinking the other day as I was working in my tomato patch – carefully removing every leaf and stem that was inflicted with that insidious blight which is attacking my tomatoes. This is my “new” tomato bed our eldest son installed for me and which was designed to avoid the blight which attacked the plants in my “old” tomato bed. It’s a raised bed isolated from the ground and composed of all “new” soil, compost, and such to reduce possible contamination from the “old” bed. Yet, regardless of my careful preparations, the blight is playing havoc with my tomato plants.
So far this year my harvest has been a handful of cherry tomatoes and the outlook is dismal. This is very disappointing because one of the true pleasures I enjoy each year is having my own garden-grown fresh tomatoes. They taste ever so much better than those cardboard-like ones we get from the store. Ok, moving on.
Not far from my tomato patch is another small garden plot where I plant green pole-type and yellow bush-type beans. They were growing nicely until one morning I saw that some kind of midnight marauding muncher(s) had eaten everything down to the bare stems. Well, this was fairly early in the season so I had time to replant and was intending to install some kind of fence or other shielding once the plants were big enough – but didn’t get it done in time. Yep, nothing left but the stems. Another disappointment – but that’s not all.
Each year I carefully prepare the flower bed next to our garage and plant several dozen New Guinea Impatiens in a variety of colors. These bright flowers spread nicely resulting in an veritable blanket of blooming brilliance that continues until late fall. But this year is different. One morning, as happened with my bean patch, I found about a third of the plants had been eaten right down to the stems – flowers, leaves and all. Kinda looks like the mysterious midnight marauding muncher(s) struck again. Another disappointment, but this time I carefully watered and fertilized what was left – including the bare stems – and managed to save a fair number. The blanket effect isn’t there, but I salvaged what I could.
You know, in a way disappointments are the part of life that provide reality checks. When something doesn’t work out the way we hoped, we’re faced with several alternatives. We may simply surrender and dismiss the idea as not being worthwhile after all; we may modify our expectations and give it another shot ; we could try different approaches towards achieving the same goal; or, as we increasingly see in the political arena, blame someone or something else for the setback and work towards exacting revenge.
In my case I’m doing research to identify tomato plants that are blight resistant and for other means of counteracting the pestilence. (I’ve already tried two sprays that supposedly work, but have been ineffective – perhaps because I’ve not used them correctly.) Nope, although this year is disappointing, I’m not giving up on tomatoes for next year. As for the problem with my beans I already have some fencing that may help next year. I also read somewhere that planting Marigolds around the perimeter of a garden will deter those midnight munchers which reportedly don’t like the smell of Marigolds. You know, that might also work for my Impatiens flower garden and a border of Marigolds would look nice.
One thing about disappointments is that they provide both a taste of life’s reality – not everything turns out the way we would like – and a learning opportunity about how to respond to the letdown and frustration when something turns sour. I read recently that the scientists who developed the all purpose cleaning solution Formula 409 didn’t get the formula right until their 409th attempt – and WD40 took 40 tries to perfect. Yep, the response to disappointment many years ago was, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Unfortunately, that has largely been supplanted today with, “If at first you don’t succeed, blame somebody.” At least that’s how it seems to me.
Bill Taylor, a Greene County Daily columnist and area resident, may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.