07/29/2014 04:49 pm ET Updated Sep 28, 2014

Lessons From the Zucchini Plant: Grow Where You Are Planted

Adam Gault via Getty Images

I have never been able to grow zucchini. Oh, I know what you're thinking. Every casual gardener can grow an amazing zucchini harvest with no effort, and with more than enough produce that the classic "leave at the neighbors' doorstep" image occurs.

This doesn't happen for me. I get a native bug invading my plants every single year. I keep trying but it keeps out-foxing me. My zucchini plants look amazing, and suddenly, one day they die. My organic garden has me stumped, and my summer zucchini consumption has to come from the farmers' market.

However, the other day I saw a zucchini plant growing -- sorry, thriving -- in my compost pile. Like full-on-plant-with-blossoms-and-fruit-zucchini-plant. Clearly, there must have been some ideal conditions that allowed that seed and plant to thrive. And what a surprise, because I thought it had to be, should have been, MUST have been, growing in the area I had designated it to grow.

I see this, too, with what I call my "volunteer" tomato plants. Tomatoes fall into the dirt the season before, overwinter, and find ideal conditions to germinate. Suddenly, I have a flurry of unplanned tomato plants in my garden -- nowhere close to where I had designated them to be. I leave them be, as far be it from me to disrupt the cycle of nature in identifying ideal conditions. (Plus, let's be real, it's more tomatoes. Who doesn't love home-grown tomatoes in the summer?)

It gave me pause to think about ingredients and conditions to grow and what lessons I could learn. I think sometimes we think we are supposed to be in one spot, on one path, and WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE HERE. Because we think this is what we want, and we should be able to control this. We try really hard and think we should or want to be somewhere and encounter disappointment when we don't succeed in that somewhere. And we keep trying the same stuff -- but it gives us the same results. It's the quintessential definition of insanity -- trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

But sometimes life -- in this case, nature -- has a way of redirecting us. It tells us that the universe has greater plans for us and where we are meant to grow. It gives us a different environment to thrive, with ideal conditions to make us our best self. Life sometimes puts us on a different path and if we lean into it, we realize we are flourishing. Sometimes the good comes out of a pile of garbage, like my compost pile. It's a different set of ingredients than we expected, but it works. And often, not only does it work, it vibrantly succeeds.

So I continue to listen to my garden -- it gives me constant lessons throughout the seasons and each year tells me different things. I keep my eyes and my heart open, listening to what it tells me I need to learn this year. I see that sometimes I expect results in one place but see them in another. I try really hard in one section but start seeing a harvest in another area. So this year I see that I can't repeat the same things time and time again and expect different results. I need to try something different. And when an unexpected element is added, a different result ensues. I see that sometimes the growth happens in an unforeseen place and provides a rich harvest, especially where I least expect it.