She had always known that her garden was overgrown and neglected, and although she felt moments of shame, most of the time she chose not to notice it for many many years.
Finally the weeds and plants started encroaching on the path to her front door so she resolved to spend some time in the garden making it at least presentable.
Every morning, as the sun rose, she could be found digging and planting, trimming and weeding until, to her surprise, she discovered that the garden had the potential to be beautiful.
After a while, the time she spent in the garden was no longer a chore, but an essential part of her day. She began to read books and magazines and scoured the Internet for tips and tricks to help her create the very best garden she could. She lovingly watered and fertilized her plants, protected them from the harshest weather and was inspired by the growth and changes that occurred as a result of her efforts.
After many hours of backbreaking work and constant attention she felt ready to show off all her hard work to the world and entered a gardening competition. She circled the date on the calendar and set about planning, scheduling and working to a timetable that would result in her garden being its most beautiful on exactly the right day. As each day passed, she never tired of the work or lost sight of her goal because she was witnessing a gradual yet dramatic transformation.
She did everything that she could to make her garden look the best it ever had, and when the day of the competition dawned, she felt like she would burst with pride. She looked forward to seeing the judges arrive at her front gate because she felt sure they would be able to recognise all the time and effort she had lovingly invested.
When the judges finally arrived, her joy and anticipation quickly turned to confusion and disappointment when they barely even glanced at her, or her garden. She was stunned to realise that somehow her garden didn't even warrant a pause in the judges' conversation.
Gripped by a fear that she had inadvertently done something wrong, she set off through the neighbourhood to look at the other gardens entered in the competition. As she walked, each garden she passed was more majestic, stunning and perfect. Tears welled in her eyes as she finally understood that her garden was inadequate by comparison.
As she walked towards her front gate, she could now see her garden as others saw it. The trees were knotted and scarred from years of neglect, the young plants were still too small and fragile and her own design was amateur and inferior compared to the professionally landscaped yards. The faults and flaws were obvious and ugly and she wondered how she could have ever overlooked them.
As she cried herself to sleep that night, she thought that her work had been for nothing.
As the sun rose the following morning, she rose from her bed, put on her gardening clothes and gloves and headed outside without even thinking about it. As she stood on her front step she saw the dappled sunlight shining through the leaves of the knotted trees. She saw the first buds appearing on the fledgling rose bushes and she saw how perfectly all the flowers and plants were laid out just the way she liked them. She knew the best place to find shade in the summer and warmth in the winter and realised that her garden was her perfect fit.
It did not matter any more what other gardens looked like, or that a couple of appointed 'judges' found her garden almost invisible, as she once again fell in love with her unique and special place. She paused to remember how much her garden had changed and how it had changed her life.
She now looked forward to the constant attention it would demand of her, knowing that her efforts would always be rewarded with growth and change. It mattered not if her garden was better or worse than anyone else's, it only mattered that she vowed that morning to always nurture, respect and feel proud of the most precious thing she had ever created.
Inspired by the novel by "Brida" - Paulo Coelho
In life each person can take one of two attitudes - to build or to plant.
The builders might take years over their tasks, but one day, they finish what they're doing. Then they find they're hemmed in by their own walls. Life loses its meaning when the building stops.
Then there are those who plant. They endure storms and the changing of the season, and they rarely rest. But, unlike a building, a garden never stops growing. And while it requires the gardener's constant attention, it also allows life for the gardener to be a great adventure. Gardeners always recognise each other, because they know that in the history of each plant lies the growth of the whole world.