More Than a Soothing Smell; What Lavender Plants Teach Us About Growth

Lavender plants are often propagated by root cuttings. Instead of attempting to grow the plant from seed, many gardeners will choose to splice off a portion of the plant’s roots and replant it in new soil. The process is also called root division.

That’s a little how this year feels to me, Little Winnowers. It feels like I am in the process of digging up part of myself and replanting me somewhere else. Do you feel like that too? That process of total, severing change between your past and future life?

I like this metaphor because it’s how I feel on the inside – this drastic shift between who I was and who I am becoming. It’s not like my life has outwardly changed that much. Really. Same city, same job, same family structure. What’s different is how I move through my life. Recently, I have only made effort with friends I value. I have developed new self-care routines. I have delved into the quiet, embracing introversion in a way I never have.

This whole year feels like I’m on retreat – a sort of self-inflicted cloistering. My body is screaming that this is what I need, so I’m trying to listen to it, as scary and unfamiliar as the aloneness is.

When I was in seventh grade, my middle school organized a retreat at small retreat center in rural Wisconsin run by some Catholic nuns. There was truly nothing fancy or modern about the retreat center buildings –  neutral colored dining hall with metal chairs, lots of nondescript shades-of-brown carpet, minimal artwork on the white walls. In fact, the space looked outdated and stuffy. 

But the grounds…oh, the grounds were stunning. They were not stunning in a grand or magnificent or extraordinarily unique way. Objectively, it was nothing more than a few acres of rolling grassland with some dispersed trees throughout it.

What was stunning was the calmness of it all. Under soft overcast skies, the crinkled bark of the deciduous trees seemed stoic and complex. The wind rolled openly, uninhibited by urban buildings, suburban homes, or the whirr of passing traffic. The first few conversations outdoors echoed across the expanse, until they trickled away into silence. Here, on retreat, it was calm.

Though my own introversion was a concept entirely unbeknownst to me at the time, I flourished in the setting, relishing the sound of only the breeze. I remember hearing my thoughts loudly that day. Invigorated and inspired under the blank canvas sky, I began to journal, to draw, to write letters, to compose poetry and songs. In the rapid, unceasing inspiration, my soul lapped up the silence like a dehydrated fawn that stumbled upon a spring creek. My soul whimpered to me – the quiet is what we’ve been missing.

Quiet, I learned, is what my artistic self needs. On that day, I began to understand what it means to retreat, and soon after, what it means to step away transformed.

So this is the dome in which I live right now – this intentional retreat into quietness, into a life so simple and introvert it scares me sometimes. This is foreign soil for me, as I try to sever away the parts of myself I wish to keep, as I transport my newly gleaned self into new soil. I am leaving parts of the old me behind – the mother plant that grew me. Our challenge now is to learn from the lavender – to strip ourselves away from the overgrown host plant of our past lives, to take only what is necessary, and to begin to grow somewhere new.

Photo credit: Dana DeVolk @thissillygirlskitchen

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Laura McNabb

nurse. writer. poet. (414) born & raised.

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