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A Commencement Address for June

We made it through May, everyone. We made it through May and now almost June!

*holds for applause*

This past month, we sat on sidelines and ate dinner in the car in between baseball practice, lacrosse and gymnastics. We coordinated play dates and end-of-the-year party plans and that one Saturday when all our kids had soccer games at the exact same time. We walked hallways and joined field trips and attended graduations. We bought the perfect shade of shimmery toast tights for the dance recital and planted hydrangeas when the risk of frost was finally past. We got our kids to field day. To the dentist. To kindergarten round-up. We even ensured they participated in 26 straight alphabet-themed days to end the school year. For some of us, May might have felt no different than January or September or the heat of July, and there’s hard work in that too. The point is, May is often just, well, a lot.

And then, suddenly, it’s over. And there’s June (albeit busy as well), beckoning us forward, surrounded by her many hues of green and a faint smell of chlorine in the distance. 

This time of year always feels a bit like an in-between for me, and that’s what I want to talk to you about today: what we will do with this moment in time—this moment after the rhythms of school have ended and before summer really starts rolling. I have some thoughts, but I try not to make a habit out of giving unsolicited advice. So, what I’d rather do is tell you a story about my garden.

One of my three kids is always up for gardening. She doesn’t care what the work is. She’s happy to pull on a pair of gloves and put her hands in the dirt. A few weeks ago, she helped me transplant a few hostas, weed around the peony bushes, and plant a row of English daisies and cosmoses right into the ground—a new experiment, I told her. We worked in tandem on those seeds. I pressed small holes into the soil, and she followed behind with the seeds. Then I came back around and covered them all up. At some point, she asked if we would have to plant them again next year, and I told her we would. 

“If we like them,” I added.

She thought about this for a moment and said, “The nice thing about gardening is that if it doesn’t work one year, you can just do something totally different the next year, right Mom?”

And just like that, she innately figured out one of the things I love most about my garden. 

Last year, I sowed zinnia seeds for the first time ever—inspired by a bouquet of garden-cut flowers my friend gave me the summer before. A new experiment, I told myself. My first blossom opened in June, and then those plants didn’t stop blooming until October. For four months, I was delighted by vibrant shades of pink, orange, and white. 

So, the first thing I did this year was make plans for more zinnias. I even planted some along the borders near the fence in our front yard, so passersby can enjoy them too. What I didn’t do was replicate the vincas that lined my back garden beds last year. I didn’t like those. They grew too tall and crowded the zinnias. I also scrapped most of my vegetable garden (but kept the essentials like tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce) and opted for more wildflowers instead. My outdoor process involves a good amount of trial-and-error, and what I don’t enjoy, I don’t bother to plant again.

The garden isn’t a place for perfection, if you ask me. It’s a place to try new things and dream and slow down. It’s an exercise in patience and unhurried work. It’s an opportunity to ask myself, What will I keep? What will I leave behind? What new things will I grow?

So on this, during June, we must first take a moment to celebrate how far we have come and acknowledge all we have accomplished. And we would, of course, be remiss if we didn’t thank those in our lives who ensured we didn’t have to make it through May alone—the dads, the grandparents, the aunts, the uncles, the coaches, the teachers *holds for applause*, and the person who figured out how to sync our sports apps to our Google calendars. 

But then, let’s let May be May. Let’s take this moment to look ahead.

How will you walk into the new season? What will you keep? What will you leave behind? What new things will you grow?

I’m keeping the zinnias and noting what can be taken off my plate next May because if I’ve learned anything about the seasons, it’s that we can hold all of our expectations and obligations loosely. We can change. What doesn’t work doesn’t have to stay. As for the new, I also planted a dahlia right in front of our house. I have no clue exactly how to care for it yet, but I couldn’t resist the pink blossoms when I passed it at the store the other day—another new experiment.

My garden might go to seed, just like my plans for chore charts and basic entryway shoe organization rarely work out. But that’s okay. There’s still joy in the dreaming and the flailing and the parts where my hands get messy.

I can’t tell you what to do with your June. (I don’t give unsolicited advice, remember?) Only you know where you’ve come from and what lies ahead. Is there room to let go? To try something new? To ignore the possibility that whatever you’re planning might not go exactly as you want?

What do you have to lose? I mean, if it doesn’t work out, you can always just try something totally different next year.

You’ll be in good company, I promise.

Until next time,


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