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Plants Teach us About Contentment

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

We could learn a thing or two from the plant world, where it seems the simple joy of being alive helps some plants overcome hardship.

a tree survives drought on shores of lake

They say the best way to be happy is to be content with what you have. Desire -- wanting -- takes us away from the moment. I look to nature for good examples. It’s true that gardeners will say things like, “This plant’s not happy here.” But is that really the truth? It would be more correct to say, “This plant would grow better in different conditions.”

The simple point is that plants are happy just to be alive. Note the red maple, above. It’s dealing with a summer drought while fresh water remains just tantalizingly out of its reach. Still, there are no complaints. It is content with life.

To a typical plant, the whole deal is about surviving, growing, and reproducing. It’s not about being comfortable or pampered. See that sunflower growing in the foundation bed, above? It self-seeded and received no care whatsoever. And yet it happily grew, bloomed, and produced seed. The same sunflower is shown, right, after birds devoured the seeds. Nature in her perfection saw to it that some of the seeds escaped the greedy birds. This year another sunflower grew in the same spot.

Because of their love of life, plants don’t let drought, flood, trampling, or other unpleasant business spoil their fun. True, some give up the ghost easier than others. But I’m always impressed with the never-say-die crowd. Witness the mulberry seedling, shoehorned into the only space available -- next to a honeylocust tree. Its chance of survival is virtually nil. Yet it grows valiantly for whatever time is allotted to it.

And how about the poor dwarf goldenrod. It’s barely recognizable after grasshoppers feasted on its flower buds. But it stays in the race, undeterred, waiting for nature to balance the equation (as she always does) so the goldenrod can show off its golden flowers another year.

Finally, we have two silver maple seedlings. You have to admire the bravado of a water-loving tree that manages to flourish in the drier soil favored by this succulent. Somehow, I don’t hear either of the interlopers complaining. In fact, they seem to be quite happy with their lot in life.