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Gardens and graduations

Graduates throwing graduation caps into air.

Graduates throwing graduation caps into air.  Credit: iStock

I was in the garden the other day, watering the blackberries. The sun was making its slow descent to the horizon, and a cool breeze was kicking in. It was a good time for contemplation, so I contemplated.

The blackberries were in the flowering stage, some white, some pink, each with five petals splayed around the greenish center that in six or eight weeks will become an absolutely luscious berry.

That's the hope, anyway. And to that end you do your best, tending to them carefully, watering, weeding, enriching their soil along the way. Some grow normally, some become diseased, some swell so magnificently you want to put them on a pedestal and take their picture before devouring them.

And as I moved through the blackberry patch, hose in hand, I wondered which flowers would flourish and which would not.

It's that time of year, in gardens and in life. A time for seeing potential, and wondering what will become of it.

Like the crops in our gardens, our human cultivars — our children and grandchildren and godchildren and nieces and nephews — are passing through their stages of flowering, too. This time of year is always auspicious. Because it marks a change of phases. Our younger ones are moving up and graduating, walking across stages and football fields, receiving their certificates and diplomas and degrees, in person or on a screen, while we beam. And wonder.

You look at all the faces, all the rows of faces, most of them grinning proudly, flush with accomplishment, ready to embrace what comes next. Some will meet the challenge, some will struggle. And then they will have an opportunity to meet the challenge that will follow. And none of us witnessing these moments of early accomplishment knows who is who.

These are times that call for Seussian wonderment at their enchanting prospects, prudent nourishment that stimulates their growth, and unflagging encouragement when obstacles arise and their spirits sink. We also need the wisdom that sometimes eludes us to know when to step in and when to step back. You want to help always with the tending, but you also have to give them space to bloom on their own. Guidance can be both active and passive.

A nephew graduated last month from college. He's already at work in his field, and you feel good about the fact that he feels good, and you hope it stays that way.

My grandson graduates this week from fifth grade. Junior high beckons in September. You know that one constant in his life — as in everyone's life — will be change. And you know the smaller changes you've seen so far in his life will only become larger as time goes, and that a lot of time lies ahead for those changes to work their magic.

Where will they lead?

At this moment, he wants to be an engineer and design roller coasters. It's a fabulous dream. You wonder whether it will last. And you think back to your 10-year-old self who wanted to be a private detective, and you realize that in your life as a reporter you've spent a pretty fair amount of time investigating, trying to figure out what happened and what's to come and what makes people tick and what they might do next, and you realize that sometimes dreams morph and twist and transmogrify and metamorphisize and bring you all the way back pretty close to the place where you started.

And so you hope that you're around long enough to ride in the first row of his first coaster.

Columnist Michael Dobie's opinions are his own.

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