springtime perfection, or close enough.

March 14, 2016

springtime muscari | reading my tea leaves

springtime muscari | reading my tea leavesspringtime muscari | reading my tea leaves springtime muscari | reading my tea leaves springtime muscari | reading my tea leaves springtime muscari | reading my tea leaves

springtime muscari | reading my tea leaves
I’ve always been something of a perfectionist apologist. Why not strive for perfection, I’ve thought. A little aspiration never hurt anyone, I’d say. And I still mostly stand by those words. But the problem with perfectionism, as anyone can tell you, is that the goal is so rarely reached. And at the risk of echoing too much self-helpy mumbo jumbo, I’d say that we end up failing to see the almost-perfect that we have while wishing for the more-perfect that we don’t. 

This weekend, I wanted to dig my hands into dirt. I wanted to clear away leaves in a bit of land, I wanted a garden that I could tinker around in wearing an old fleece and a brush of dirt on my forehead like a badge of honor. I wanted Faye to have spot to get dirty in (and not the kind of dirty that comes from a slide being too close to the BQE). I wanted to walk a garden of my own, checking for signs of life: a crocus opened here; a snowbell quivering there. 

I don’t have a garden. But I do have a mess of dirty pots that I never bothered to clean out last fall. And at the farmers’ market on Saturday there were pots of muscari—the stuff that grows like unwanted weeds in some people’s yards (though I’m certain I’ll die not knowing why a little burst of color in the early springtime would be unwelcome to anyone).

I paid $12 for three pots of something that’s free in other places.

(Thrift be damned.) 

I dragged the table I use for a desk to the window. I leaned out as far as I could and stuck my spade into the soil in the pots on our wide window ledge. The soil was thick with the dried out roots of last year’s beauty. I used my pair of hand clippers to hack away at dried out stems of parlsey that I’d allowed to thicken and rot. I cleared away dried wisps of chives from around fresh sprouts that I hadn’t even noticed before. I did my best not to let too much dirt fly into the white curtains. (At this, I mostly failed.)

I pulled my potted bulbs out of their plastic pots and plopped them into pots I’d only barely cleaned. It wasn’t the gardening I really wanted to do. It was the gardening I could do. And for me, in those moments, it was pretty near perfect. Perfect enough.

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  • Reply Erin March 14, 2016 at 9:33 am

    I love the contrast of the oh so large pots with the wee plant. I know that with time, this will change but, for now – I find the aesthetic pleasing.

    • Reply Erin Boyle March 14, 2016 at 9:40 am

      Me too! I love how the little muscari peeps up over the edge of the big pots. It reminds me of how clusters come up through the leaves in springtime!

  • Reply Lara March 14, 2016 at 9:55 am

    so inspiring! your approach on doing what is within reach is very helpful this monday morning. early spring has me a little anxious with all the unfinished winter projects…but yesterday afternoon, we spent the afternoon watering and leaf-dusting ourindoor plants (a great way to to keep little hands busy on hardier plants!) and it was so satisfying, we just moved up to the Hudson Valley, after 15 years in the city. I had the same cravings as you describe for gardening, but now I’m a little overwhelmed by our little backyard (the former owners were experienced gardeners) Anytime you feel like hopping on metronorth and exploring the gardens and woods, you are welcome to visit!! 🙂

  • Reply Emily March 14, 2016 at 10:16 am

    Thank you so much for this! I have the same longings for a garden and an earthy for my daughter to play. Little potting projects on our tiny balcony always make us happy!

  • Reply Lau March 14, 2016 at 10:34 am

    May I ask where you found these pots in Brooklyn? I’ve been searching for some clay pots like these (long toms perhaps they’re called?) to break the mold of the traditional terra cotta pots – of which I can only have so many..

    • Reply Erin Boyle March 14, 2016 at 10:36 am

      The largest white pot is by Ben Woolf. His pots are really wonderful and you can find them at GRDN on Hoyt Street (along with a whole host of other pretty pots). The other two in these shots are from Terrain!

  • Reply Libby March 14, 2016 at 10:36 am

    We moved into a new house recently and the people who lived here before us had these gorgeous flower beds. Right now we have daffodils popping up and peony bushes will come in soon. Lillies! Before this I lived in a top-floor apartment for 7 years so I don’t know anything about stuff that go into the ground. But I want to do my best to keep these beautiful things alive.

  • Reply Sally March 14, 2016 at 10:55 am

    That first paragraph! So important to remember. I was thinking about this recently. This year, I volunteered to be a child advocate for a minor and the process was full of ups and downs. I think anyone in social work or teaching (or in most professions) knows that there will be a lot of successes and also what feels like discouraging failures. I try to keep this in mind with my switch over to an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Like my volunteer work and my day job, I will at times make mistakes, fail, but that doesn’t mean I should stop striving. Life is too messy for perfection to be the aim. 🙂

    • Reply Kim B. March 17, 2016 at 4:26 pm

      Thank you for taking on such an important role. You’re kind to say that people in most professions will feel failure, but few people will do so in a context that is so heartbreaking and simultaneously so important. Bless you for giving in that way.

  • Reply simone March 14, 2016 at 10:55 am

    Beautiful plantings (and perspective)! I love the wash of springtime posts on so many blogs this morning. Happy daylight savings! We’ve almost made it.

  • Reply Ariel March 14, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    I am in the same boat– no space to garden, just the tiny deck in back of my apartment. I agree, it’s all what you make of it, doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A few herbs can make such a difference, even if that’s all you have room for! Love your photos– such pretty little flowers. Well said, too. “Perfect enough!”

    • Reply Erin Boyle March 14, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      Totally! Happy planting!

  • Reply Angela Storm March 14, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    I do not live in a city like NYC and am privileged to have both yard and garden space. It’s one of those time, for me anyway, when less is not more. More is more. I love to see plants spilling out all over the place!

    • Reply Erin Boyle March 14, 2016 at 12:14 pm

      Me too! Sounds lovely.

  • Reply Tamara March 14, 2016 at 4:04 pm

    Hi Erin, Thank you for this post! I stumbled on your blog recently and it’s like a beautiful breath of fresh air. I LOVED your post on selaginella moss and I actually ordered one on AMAZON which came in all fuzzy and adorable last week, and I just ordered a terracotta pot and saucer to re-pot it. This muscari post is fantastic!!! Keep the wannabe garden posts coming, I just love them. Best, Tamara (New Haven, CT)

  • Reply Kim March 14, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Don’t let the perfec be the enemy of the good. Words to live by.

    • Reply Kim March 14, 2016 at 4:43 pm

      Oops “the perfect”! See what I mean!

      • Reply Erin Boyle March 14, 2016 at 4:55 pm


  • Reply Susurrus March 14, 2016 at 5:22 pm

    It sounds perfect to me. The terracotta pots make such a difference. I have a tiny front garden that is full of bulbs – mainly bluebells. They’re just leaves at the moment but I’m looking forward to them flowering.

  • Reply Meg March 14, 2016 at 5:38 pm

    Absolutely! I have a growing little set of plants on my windowsill and I love getting to plan new ones. I was at an event last week and got a pack of seeds, I grabbed a mug, and a bit of dirt to plant them in. I’m just starting to see a little sprout. Thank goodness spring is nearly here!

  • Reply Lauren @ Lauren, Etc. March 14, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    I can wholeheartedly identify with your description of perfectism. It is a part of my identity I take pride in, but at the same time it holds me back from so much. When you live in a small space, especially one that is not your own, you have to not only be accepting of the imperfect, but you have to Iove it. Thank you the reminder that I can still satisfy my need to garden, cook, create, and entertain in my imperfect space.

  • Reply Lydia March 15, 2016 at 7:33 am

    this was beautiful! I came home with two new plants from trader joe’s on sunday, myself… it’s one of the only ways I have the freedom to make this rental feel like a place I live on purpose!

  • Reply Joyce March 15, 2016 at 8:51 am

    There isn’t room for perfection when gardening. Mother Nature frowns on it and will laugh at us. Great job.

  • Reply Rebekah March 15, 2016 at 2:59 pm

    Weeds?!? I look forward all winter to the day those little beauties pop up in my yard, no thanks to me. You are wanted here, Little Muscari. Always welcome.

    • Reply Erin Boyle March 15, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Haha! Agreed!

  • Reply Carmella March 16, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Yeah! What you can with what you have! It’s beautiful!

  • Reply Lulu March 16, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    Love this. I know them as grape hyacinths, so it’s nice to learn their actual name 🙂 Muscari sounds so pretty and exotic.
    I like your ethos of doing enough, not striving for perfection – it’s something I’m still learning!!

    • Reply Erin Boyle March 16, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      Ha! Grape hyacinths is cute too!

  • Reply Camila March 23, 2016 at 12:27 pm

    This just made me super excited to get my hands dirty with a few plants of my own 🙂

  • Reply kate March 29, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    I’ve commuted for years and the gardening I have wanted to do and the gardening I have been able to do look like two very different things. Four hours of commuting five days a week leaves you exhausted and the physical strength to really get into the garden disappears with each passing year. That and, for a bunch of other reasons, I ditched the commute at the beginning of the year and am regaining my physical strength and digging, with gusto, in the garden again. Such is the ebb and flow of life, eh? Your digging moments will come again and, in the meantime, this looks pretty perfect.

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