Self Reliance: A Response from My Mom

My mom read my post of a couple of days ago and sent this response to me.

Self-Reliance has been a topic for Visiting Teaching off and on for as long as I remember. The last time I was to give a lesson to the two well educated and affluent sisters whom I teach, I took the tack of being emotionally, physically and spiritually self-reliant instead of the garden/food storage track. I, who at the time felt very self-reliant, was quite confident that I could teach this principle very well.

When we went to Seattle and with your dad in the intensive care unit for six weeks, I learned a lot about myself. I was afraid. I feared that I didn’t know enough, that I wasn’t up to what the future held. I didn’t want to answer my phone at night, and I was scared to drive other people’s cars. By the time we were on our way home I realized that I was so awash in my own inabilities to act that I was one of those people who might be able to leave the bad stuff to others. I was on the emotional dole. So I got my act together and in his subsequent two hospital stays, became an expert at changing dressings, cleaning feeding tubes and treating wounds. I doled out drugs and became the official driver. I was also weary, discouraged and sometimes cross. I got through it. I heard my mother’s voice in my mind as she reminded me of my dad and his fierce notion of how one coped. So I coped.

I have a line of poetry that I love by an obscure poet named Laurie Sheck entitled “The Deer”:

…What I’ve loved about myself and others

is in the dream I have of this deer
though she was real: she came out of the woods
bleeding and she knew how to die
but healed. The deer that walked
one day back into the woods

We plant gardens. We have grape vines along our back deck. In these modern times I know of no one who can be totally self-sufficient by only reaping what they themselves had sown. There remains however, the eternal law of the harvest. The joy of the gathering, the reaping of ones rewards.

I love to have a garden. Each year we plant tomatoes, beans, beets, onions, herbs and cucumbers. Some years there is a variation on what is planted, but it is usual the first three. The onions are eternal as they reseed themselves each season.

I go out each morning, and weed, clip off suckers, tie up weak branches and prune and dig about. It gives me peace in the world. I rejoice in each tomato, bean, beet and pickle. The feel of a sun warmed product of my growing in my hand is most sweet. It is not self-reliance; it is merely a reminder of the things we can do. We learn patience and confidence in our efforts.

We learn there are times we can pick an idea out of our minds that is good; harvest a solution, an answer or something incredibly creative.

The narrator in the poem says “the deer is patience”. She found the wounded deer and helped it. We are entrusted to find those who are wounded with the hopes that like the deer, they will walk one day. When we are wounded, we learn to enlist others to help us until we walk more on our own.

These days I feel spiritually deficient. I sometimes think a fellow Saint is a flake, so I am out of harmony and I can feel the lack of spirit or at the recognition of it. So am I spiritually dependent?

Voltaire wrote “Candide”, a satire in which the main character is an naïve optimist, who was sheltered in an Eden-like reality, until he went into the world. I think of this work almost every time we plant something. Candide declared “We must cultivate our garden”, as if everything we plant will grow.

Later this work like so many other things, including “The Book of Mormon” became a Broadway musical. The finale is a wonderful musical extravaganza that is probably the best in the history of the genre. The closing chorus words are as follows:

Let dreamers dream
What worlds they please
Those Edens can’t be found.
The sweetest flowers,
The fairest trees
Are grown in solid ground.

We’re neither pure, nor wise, nor good
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house and chop our wood
And make our garden grow.
And make our garden grow!

Most stirring and should definitely be viewed on-line. In the end however, the cow dies.

So, we do the best we can being neither pure, nor wise, nor good and try to make either the garden of our soul, body or spirit grow no matter if we are independent, reliant or at peace with whatever we are.


  1. My mom rules. Just saying.

  2. Dude. Your mom does rule. Loved this.

  3. Sister Stapley,

    Thank you for this post. I’ve enjoy the continued influence your family has had on my life- from this post, back to my time as a young kid learning “The Messiah Chorus” under your direction, to your husband’s guidance as my stake president as I prepared for my mission, and now your son’s thoughtful posts on BCC- accentuating the need for community reliance (even online) that can lead to enlightened thought/discussion. Thank you.

    I’m glad to hear Pres. Stapley is doing well and wish you all the best-

    Jonathan Griffith

  4. Anyone who suggests checking out Bernstein’s version of Candide is cool in my book! I must share this since I am assuming your Mom is readying this.

  5. Perhaps the best thing I have read here all year.

  6. Christopher J. says:

    Awesome. So so awesome.

  7. J. and J.’s mom, I love love love this. Thanks so much for posting.

  8. Thanks for that follow up from your mom. I love comparing life to how plants grow. I love how she narrates that we gain patience and confidence in the gardening efforts. It struck me that I usually enjoy independent plants because I am not always around to tend to them. Also, when I’m away, I have to have a caretaker for my hibiscus because I don’t want to get rid of them because I love that flower but they are high maintenance. I have gone through lots of caretakers over the years and only once have I had someone who could care for them as well as I can. Usually I come back to stressed out plants. I think I have done this to my kids also. I thought it was enough to say, plant yourself where you can bloom, instead of bloom where you are planted when it comes to self reliance. We need to take into account each plant’s sun, shade, water, drainage and nutrient requirements. But I never looked at it as the plant is also dependent on our caregivers when we are not in the optimal environment. I hope it’s not too late to be the best gardener for my kids while they are still depending on me. Maybe if I had been growing food instead of ornamentals all these years, I would have figured this out earlier.

  9. Julie Stapley says:

    You are all most kind. Thanks for the comments.

  10. J Stapley – Just remember, you never get to old to receive correction from mom!

    Sister Stapley – You are awesome and you raised an awesome son.

  11. I got something I will use from this article. Paraphrased: “Buck up and cope.” Thanks.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    Very nice!

  13. This is very sweet. J. Stapley you are lucky and blessed. I live in a desert, literally and figuratively, and my garden is impacted accordingly.

  14. Your mom needs to become a BCC permablogger. Beautiful and poignant.

  15. Very nicely said. I can see, J, how you got to be you.

  16. Way to tell him mom!

  17. “It is not self-reliance; it is merely a reminder of the things we can do”.

    Well said!

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