The Rock Garden: a Metaphor


I am at that extraordinary time in life when rocks are suddenly beautiful.  They are both a metaphor and symbol for my life at the moment.  I have rocks in my garden and I can either be halted by them or over come them by engaging and embracing them.  In December I met my first sack of rocks when I was laid off after nearly 14 years.  They’ve been metaphorically sitting in the corner of my apartment.  I watched the movie Up in the Air last night and got to watch dozens of people being laid off and think about how that felt, all … over … again.  It turned out to be a great thing.

The Stone Garden © Britt Conley

I am not one to get depressed.  In fact, I can count on one hand the number of times in my life I have ever been and nearly every occasion was before my adult life.  This is because at heart, I am an optimist of the highest kind.  I don’t get jealous of those who do well, I am thrilled for them and I feel inspired.  I love to see people rise to the occasion.  Perhaps because it reminds me that anyone can with enough dreams, gumption and self determination can do great things.  I have always been full of these things.  So, despite welling up when I was first told that my services were no longer needed, I suddenly felt the breeze of freedom from a long hull of stressful, painstaking, aggressively fast paced newspaper life, and what I realized was my life.  The relief was tremendous.  That is not say I didn’t have those moments of, “What the hell am I going to do with the bills!”  or five months of only getting one call back from the dozens of job applications I’ve sent out and then never getting call number two.  It’s a process that I don’t wish on anyone and yet it has lifted my life out of my hamster cage.  I was given a sack of rocks and told to go sit in the unemployment corner.  Each rock I’ve had to pull out of the bag and experience like homework that must be turned in.  Each one has an assignment that I need to address in order to place that rock aside and move to the next.  Most are merely logistical.  Like filing for unemployment and wrapping up financial paper work – which takes months.   That said, I’ve had The Photo Garden Bee blog and this has been an unsrupassed joy!

In February I hatched my first big business plan as a side income for The Photo Garden Bee and put in a great deal of money and time and preparation only to be handed a bolder, which subsequently crushed me. My business “future” with all is glory ran over me and off into the sunset before I could even sit up.  It was one of those movie making crazy moments that left me in public tears actually wearing bee antenna.  I can’t help but laugh every time I look back at it.  Partly because I’ve learned that what seems like a insurmountable odd at the time can actually be a small rock in the garden.  I may halt your tiller in the middle of your grand push but it only really requires picking it up and fixing it.  Much like I did myself.

In March, I became even sicker than I had been.  And I had been for years but it was hard to notice through the daily grind.  It finally became life altering to the point that I realized my life was about to be in danger.  So I headed to the Doctor and behold I had five massive fibroid tumors pressing on other organs and one was already preventing another organ from working correctly at all.  Waiting for the surgery was seemingly the longest two weeks of my life.  Well, until I had the surgery.  Now these are the longest weeks of my life.  Laugh out loud!

This was supposed to be the grandest garden hoping time of all and instead I can now walk just over one block and back as I continue to recover.  Another rock in my garden as I attempt to till.  On top of this as you all know, my mother suddenly became ill just before my surgery and made me her medical proxy.  We found out just the before hand that she had cancer.  I couldn’t fly out to Utah because of my condition and the impending surgery so we had to do everything by phone.  A normal conversation one week turned to difficulty attempted communication within days to just being able to get a hand full of words from her the day before the surgery.  I called her the day after the surgery, as I couldn’t do anything myself the day off, and found myself with a one way conversation from my hospital bed to hers.  How did this happen and so fast?  I was released the next day and at 3:oo am that night I was awoken to the words that she had passed.  My garden plans were  done.  My family and I were suddenly planning a funeral that I wouldn’t even be able to attend.  I can’t tell you what this is like.  But it’s kind of like being handed a sack full of boulders for your small garden.

You’d think I’d be depressed by now, but, it doesn’t quite feel that way.  Perhaps it’s the amount of losses one after the other have prepared me for this.  I don’t know.  I even have another life altering loss and event during this time I haven’t even mentioned.  Thus, the garden plan itself must be altered.  All of this has fundamentally changed my entire concept for my garden.  It’s shape, it’s point is gone.  I realize that what I knew about what I love, like, and dislike was more certain than most people I’ve ever met.  Now I have no idea. I suddenly feel I don’t have to have a garden at all.  I have a yard, I have a world that I’ve barely experienced.  I thought I had experienced it and fully!   But, now I have a new set of glasses and taste buds.  Being stuck at home still, only half way through my recovery, I don’t even know how they will work but I know they are already installed.  I don’t think they are returnable. My life was carved out with it’s garden time.  Now I realize that life is the garden and I wasn’t giving it it’s full due. Change is a very wonderful thing.

A rock garden © Britt Conley

I never really liked rock gardens. Mostly because I never considered them gardens.  Yet here I am with a garden plot full of rocks and boulders and the realization that I have an all new space that these rocks and boulders can adorn.  In fact they are not impediments to my garden at all, but building blocks.  Rock gardens can be stunningly beautiful. They require more than tilling the soil, dropping in seeds and waiting to see what emerges with some bug maintenance.  They require a creative vision, planning, physical building and a design that you get to create yourself.  They are stunning when finished, like natural mosaics with texture and finish.

The Stone Garden at Dumbarton Oaks © Britt Conley

Every so often my husband and I try to articulate why we wanted to marry each other. It’s been almost fourteen years.  We were engaged just three weeks after our first date so the “whys” are fun to consider and reflect on.  This past week I realized a great metaphor.  I wanted to marry him because he was like a plot of soil that was perfect for me to grow.  No matter what was to come my way, this soil felt like home between my toes and the perfect acidity for me and my heart.  Now after all these years of growing together and seeing many different flowers and plant projects along the way I have found I want to start over.  I want to go on a date with my husband and find out more about the soil I love so much.  I want to garden hop with him around the country and taste all new foods.

That is the phenomenal thing about nature.  After fire has burned the fields and soil there is a period where nothing can survive and then when you least expect it comes the first growth and then a meadow shortly there after that is healthier and more fresh and pristine than the last.  So in what seems like six months of crazy life altering mental and physical hell has also brought the lightness of freedom, a jettison of baggage I never even noticed before, an obliteration of worry and a blank landscapers map.  I see the greatest garden of my life coming with the joy of designing it with that fantastic soil I fell in love with.

A rock © Britt Conley

As for the rocks, they are my greatest gift.  They each hold a tear and story and now they get to be part of my conceptual garden.  They won’t be just random border markers anymore that have to be shoved aside. They get to be part of my rock garden and what ever my new earthen garden emerges to be.


Well I don’t know about you but I’ve found this very cathartic.  It’s a terrible post for a “Wordless Wednesday” but then again I have never posted a Wordless Wednesday or any other day in my life.  Laugh out loud!

So, it’s Spring and many of you are out there buying or planting seeds and filling your gardens while others are to busy.  My advice to any of you who have been too busy… put your garden back on your calendar, you never know what it will grow, even if with rocks and all.

Til Tomorrow…

Britt : )

Related posts:

  1. The Kaufman Hydrangea Garden at Norfolk Botanical Garden
  2. What’s going to be in your garden this year?
  3. Winter at Norfolk Botanical Garden
  4. At Denver Botanic Gardens it’s all about ambiance
  5. Today’s Featured Post: A Letter from The Photo Garden Bee




  1. Nell

    And you have the strength of a rock m'dear! This helps your soul to heal while resting has helped you body.

  2. joey

    You are a rock! Spring blessings.

  3. Britt

    Thanks Joey and Nell!

  4. Bren

    You are not alone friend! ((HUGS))
    I love the rock garden collection. This time of year is so hard... I just don't feel like I can keep up!

    That solo rock just blows me away. I had to go back and stare at it again.

  5. Sunny

    Lovely post, and yes rocks, rock. That stone garden looks realy nice.

  6. Britt

    Thanks Sunny! I definately want to do my own rock mosiac now!


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