Last weekend I moved two hostas that I had planted in my front garden almost a decade ago. They were a gift from a neighbor who found that she had extras while she was doing her spring planting. Because I already had a few hostas of a different variety, I assumed that the new ones would be about the same size. Unfortunately, that proved not to be the case, as often happens with assumptions.
For the first few years, I admired the big glossy leaves of the new hostas, which were noticeably larger than the leaves of the other variety. After a while they grew together to form a big clump, and I thought that was okay because the older hostas also had grown close to each other. My husband mentioned that he liked the big ones. They looked very impressive, robust and healthy.
But they just kept on growing. I realized that I had a problem when they started overgrowing the front walkway. Because hostas are round plants with leaves growing out from the center, they can’t be trimmed along one side without ending up lopsided; so cutting them back was out of the question. Last summer their leaves stretched halfway across the concrete next to my porch steps. Visitors and pizza delivery people had to tread carefully to avoid stepping on them. Now that they had become so enormous, I was left with an embarrassing display of gardening foolishness in full view of all the neighbors. There was no doubt those hostas would have to be moved farther back in the garden to give them more room to grow.
I wasn’t looking forward to that chore, though, and I kept finding reasons to put it off. The heat of the summer wouldn’t be a good time to move plants; and once we got into the cooler autumn weather, there was always something going on that made a convenient excuse. Then it was winter and they dropped their leaves, allowing me to ignore them until the spring. I finally got around to moving them last weekend.
Relying on assumptions when we don’t have enough facts is, of course, human nature. It served our ancestors well for most of our history, when people often had to make immediate decisions on which their lives depended. Was it a hungry wolf in those rustling bushes, or was it a deer? Did that group of men from another tribe, coming into view over the hill, have plans to attack the village? Making snap judgments was a very useful survival skill in those days.
Now we have easy access to information, and most of us aren’t likely to find predators (human or otherwise) lurking near our homes when we step outside. Still, both our decision-making processes and the structure of our society took shape when life was much more precarious. We make assumptions all the time, just as our ancestors did; and when they are challenged, our first reaction is fear. We’re afraid of what might happen if we let ourselves get distracted thinking about other possibilities, only to find out that there really was a wolf in the bushes after all.
So when we’re told about a group of people who need more room to grow in our collective cultural garden, we don’t want to hear it. We react with denial: those big leaves can’t be taking up that much space, can they? Maybe we step on them sometimes, but hey, there’s got to be some way to shove them back where they belong and make sure they stay there. After all, they weren’t so much in the way before. And just think of the nuisance it would be to dig new holes!
Then after a while, our society grudgingly decides it’s time to stop putting off the chore, just as I did with my hostas last weekend. Even though I’d been dreading it and making excuses for the better part of a year, it wasn’t really that hard after all.