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A passion for gardening always leads to the clearance section at the nursery. Understanding the pull and its strength illuminates more about humanity than horticulture.

Spring is here and probably more often than I should, I find myself in one of several garden centers or nurseries.

I always make a beeline for the clearance section to see what flowers and plants have been marked down, walking directly past aisles and aisles of perfectly cultivated varieties strutting their stuff for the pollinators.

Why is the clearance section always my first stop?

Is it to save money? Well, sure, that always helps. It’s a nice placating comment to make when I come back home with a trunk that bears a stronger resemblance to a rainforest than an actual area of the car.

“It was a great deal! You’ll never guess what I paid for it!”

But is there something more to it?


Ok, yes.

You’d be surprised what makes it into the clearance section. Items that are comparable to the aisles of magnificence I walked past without a second glance (how did they get here?). Items that maybe have a touch of imperfection (don’t we all). Items that are on the borderline between life and death (they just need some dedicated attention). And occasionally, the ones that looked like they already crossed the threshold of life (too late for me to be of any help).

Finding something and giving it the resources and attention it needs to thrive—bringing it back from the brink brings me more joy than buying a carefully crafted, full-priced image of perfection.

It’s not a savior complex. It's finding the unique alternatives, ones that society has cast aside—or the ones that have been through something--and learning from them. Anyone who doubts you can learn from a plant has never taken care of one.

Gardening is not everyone’s thing, I get it. But there are lessons.

I think you see where I’m going.

The world is awash in people claiming to have it all together. The perfect family, the career, the aura of success. Social media, news, books, public behavior—all of THAT are the aisles and aisles of flowers preening in their glory. “Look at me—don’t you want to have me in your life?”

People who have scars, who live outside of the image of perfection—those are the ones we really learn from. The ones who are quiet but have the eyes of a soul that has seen too much in their lifetime, regardless of their age. The ones who grow in a different way. The ones who rise like a phoenix from the ashes. The ones who, if we are quiet and still for long enough, we see our reflection in.

All the ones who are discounted.

And still, they rise.

Seek those who are singed, who silently stand by. Who have borne the ravages of war, disease, loss, pain, or time itself. For they will always be the first to rescue another from the flame.

Inevitably, the next time I walk into a nursery, I will again head to the clearance section first.

Perhaps to save money.

Perhaps to find joy.

But perhaps because I too belong to the discounted rack.

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