Sow There! Small tasks and big rewards, Feb. 14, 2020

Small tasks and big rewards | Sow There!

February 14, 2020 at 3:00 a.m.

Sometimes, but not always, the hard work we put into an outcome can greatly increase the resulting joy of our efforts. Other times, the waiting also brings magnified joy.

Gardening is an excellent real life example. We hoe and dig, plant and water — we also wait and wait. If you love gardening, each step is filled with anticipation. That’s why it’s such a bummer when you lose your young lettuce to frost or blossom end rot shrivels your squash.

Right now, my time for gardening is minimal, which means I’ll stick with the winners.

I can’t remember when I put hyacinth bulbs into my nifty bulb vases. However, at the time I was thinking clearly. One week I popped a single bulb into place. The next week another.

A hyacinth bulb placed in a vase bloomed after weeks of weeks waiting. (Heather Hacking — Contributed)

For weeks and weeks, I watched the semi-translucent roots reach into the water. The bulbs began to show color, and I waited some more. One day I opened the door to the cubby-hole office I share with Terri McFarland, and the room was filled with sweet hyacinth scent, made more profound by the small quarters.


I’d need to do some soul-searching to decide which smell I savor the most – Daphne odoro outdoors or hyacinth trapped in a room. It’s been a while since I have sniffed fresh plumeria in bloom, but I’d wager this would add another contender to most-favored scented plant list.

Forcing bulbs in vases makes me feel almost-forward thinking, when the fact is I simply never got around to putting the bulbs in the ground.

This week I was fortunate to experience other delayed moments of joy. In early November I began working for the Office of International Training at Chico State.

I was thrilled to bump into people on campus, and to work in a place surrounded by trees. My coworkers work well (and laugh) together, and frankly I was really glad to have a paycheck.

Yet, every moment was not a joy. We planned and planned, pushed papers around in a circle and my brain was blurred by Excel spreadsheets. If I loved crunching numbers, I might have had an entirely different career path, one that involved numbers and possibly a bigger paycheck.

Let’s face it. I’m that “people person,” destined to be a reporter, teacher or Girl Scout leader.

For months and months, my new coworkers sat in our offices and talked and planned.

There was one particular week when I was cranky and frazzled. If I juggled one more task I was certain I would forget to brush my teeth or tie my shoes.

“Just wait,” my hallway companions said with knowing expectation. “As soon as the scholars arrived, it will all change. You’ll be on cloud nine.”

The scholars are here, as in Fulbright participants, *22 of them from 22 countries. I’m floating. Who cares about sleep when there are 22 people to show around campus, and Chico, and Northern California. They’re interested in the crops we pass while riding in a Chico State bus to places beyond. They snap photos as we cruise by a field covered in sandhill cranes. They want to know my opinion about the best, reasonably-priced restaurants and aren’t shy about buying American-name brands at thrift stores. My 32 years of local knowledge now seems like a big deal.

Plus, they’re teachers. In all of the small ways I can be helpful, I’m helping them to learn new things that will help in classrooms throughout the world. Just as my coworkers had predicted, I can see clearly how all of those small tasks are adding up for some real good.

Having visitors is not the same as traveling the world. Yet, it does help to brighten the paths that we travel on a regular basis. I’ve been to Sacramento dozens of times. Yet, it’s all new when you’re with people walking down the steps of the Delta King for the first time, or hearing the clomp-clomp of horse hooves on cobblestone.

Delayed gratification has, indeed, become a gift.

  •  The Fulbright program at Chico State is funded through the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State and International Research & Exchanges, administered by Chico State.
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