It was a lazy Sunday afternoon on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. I was fifty-two and staying at my first hostel while on my solo journey that June. Since Sunday had always been a family day, I felt drawn to visit one of the sites on the island, Polly Hill Arboretum, that reminded me of a favorite aunt. When I was a girl, Daddy’s sister, my Aunt Polly, had lived with our family on our farm for several years. She taught me about the forest flora when we tramped through the woods and flowers when we planted in the spring. I took the island shuttle to the arboretum, wanting to feel the familiar comfort of family while I was over seven-hundred miles from my North Carolina home.
There were only a few folks when I arrived around noon. I took my time going through the exhibits in the Visitor Center then walked outside to explore. The grounds of the arboretum had formerly been a sheep farm before Polly Hill’s parents had turned the property into their summer home in 1926. When Polly inherited the property at the age of fifty, she planted seeds in a small nursery bed. She didn’t resort to the quicker method of using plants; she started the slow process with seeds and was reportedly a practical gardener who learned from trial and error.
I walked about the twenty cultivated acres with a wide variety of plants and trees including favorites of a kousa dogwood allee, perennial border, and monkey puzzle tree. Eventually, I found an apple orchard. I sat on a bench under a tree and pulled out my lunch of a PBJ sandwich that I’d packed in the hostel kitchen. Eating in the quiet shade, I could envision Polly Hill sowing a single seed when this land was a blank canvas, a field of possibility. As time progressed, her vision grew to develop an arboretum. I thought of how my mind was free for my dreams to expand when I worked outside.
Over time, Polly Hill experimented with seeds that no one would have predicted would grow in that region of the Northeast. With her patience and generosity, she successfully grew the plants and in time shared them with people around the globe. What a great work came out of her effort.
At fifty, Polly Hill had no idea that she’d only lived half her life.
I’m just two years older than she was when she started this, I thought, looking out over the mature plants that she’d sown from seeds. From what I’d read, Polly Hill wasn’t just an inspiration to horticulturists. She motivated anyone seeking the determination to change their life at any age.
What if I looked at life without putting an ‘upper age limit’ a ceiling on what I could do? Seems like Polly Hill just felt inspired to do something and started, carrying it out with a constancy and passion, unaware that she would continue her project for fifty more years until she was 100.
I left the arboretum, feeling like I had as a child after I’d gone for one of our family’s Sunday afternoon visits with relatives. My parents would talk with their kin inside and I’d explore outside, seeing the clues of how my relatives lived their lives– the crops they grew, animals they raised, secret treasures hidden in their barns and sheds.
Visiting with Polly Hill, I was inspired by how she’d lived her life, starting with a single seed and nurturing it to the point of a productive arboretum. She hadn’t limited her dream by placing a boundary on it, wondering if it was foolish to pursue such an endeavor so late in life. She’d moved forward with a steadfast passion and eyes looking toward her goal.
I wanted to be like her.
More Pictures of Martha’s Vineyard #solojourney at Author Facebook Page- Saved by Sedona
How About You?
What would you like to do if you didn’t allow your age to be a barrier?
If you’re limited by things besides age, like physical conditions, mobility, is there another way to follow your dream instead of how you originally envisioned it?