A Portable Garden


“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’ve had a few very spontaneous and almost inexplicable crying outbursts since moving to Laos. I’m not one who cries easily, so it takes me by surprise. Rob is bewildered and concerned. The last time it happened was because he couldn’t tell me what time he was going to bed. Yes, you read that right. The scenario is clearly much more complicated, but after I recovered and looked at the situation it became a bit more clear.

I have very little control over many factors in my life at this point. I live in a strange new country where I don’t speak the language and I spend a lot of time alone.  When I asked Rob what time he thought he was going to bed, it was really my way of asking how many more minutes I had with him before he had to leave again. He didn’t know this is what I needed. I didn’t even know that’s what I needed in the moment.

Everything can fall apart quickly when the world around is completely foreign and nothing resembles the life you’re used to. The important thing for me has been to spend time figuring out why it fell apart and how to not just put the pieces back together, but also to remember that it’s not the end of the world.

Fall seven times, get up eight.

For me this means I can cry seven times if I dry my tears and press on that eight time.

My tears dried, I always find new reasons to smile and laugh. Yesterday I saw a row of nude store manikins on the street, each priced according to their apparent worth. I couldn’t help but crack up. Passing me on that same street was a woman pushing a large cart overflowing with flowering plants. Amid the traffic, a portable garden.

May we all hold a portable garden in our hearts to soothe us when we feel the sting of defeat. And remember, a single defeat does not have to be a final defeat.



  1. I can certainly understand and relate to that feeling (having had a similar experience in Asia) and I really love your perspective on it. The ability to sit, breathe, reflect and understand our surroundings and the ways in which they shape our feelings and our selves is so very important. I’m glad you posses the strength of spirit and the wisdom of someone much older.
    I wonder sometimes if those feelings are a bit of a cumulative thing. That is, each time we find ourselves relocating beyond our horizon or submerging in a new career or processing a sudden loss –do those experiences add yet another pebble to the pack we’ve slung on our shoulder rather than making the next challenge easier, more familiar? It seems like it should be the latter, and in some ways it has been for me. But the cumlulative effect of always being able to cope, always finding a way to thrive, always being able to compartmentalize, always being okay…it leaves a residue, it adds a certain and indelible weight.
    Sorry, I’ve rambled again.
    I know that you have the a kind and adventurous soul and that you are up to the challenge before you. If the pack gets heavy, I hope it is lightened by the shedding of pebbles rather than memories, rather than joys. And I hope that your rediscovered portable garden lightens your load and that it doesn’t violate any quirky local agricultural statutes.

    Go. Bloom. Grow.


    • I read your comment when I woke up this morning and I’m still thinking about it. I really don’t know. I may never figure out if my pebbles continue adding up or if I am able to leave pieces of myself behind as another favorite Brian Andreas quote says. I’d love to go deeper into this and would love to hear others input as well. Maybe a conversation can begin online somehow. I may have to blog about about! In so many ways, I see the ‘indelible weight’ as you so beautifully call it. But, I also see that even with more weight, the past has strengthened those muscles so that the weight doesn’t always feel any heavier.

      I can’t stop thinking about it now. Thank you for the spark!

      “She left pieces of her life behind her everywhere she went. It’s easier to feel the sunlight without them, she said.” – Brian Andreas

      • So great to see your words as I get up, as well! And I love the Brian Andreas quote also.
        I think the question we are considering is an essential one in my facets of our lives, or mine anyway.
        You may be right that it’s really a bit of both– adding pebbles and leaving bits of ones self behind. I do like that idea of leaving a trail of bits behind…that’s where others feel our presence perhaps.
        “When you come upon a fork in the road…there’s a good chance someone left their backpack open again…”
        Have a day of wonder and joy, my friend!
        Off to get coffee before work.

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