Chance vs Choice

Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved. ~ Williams Jenning Bryan


Do you believe in destiny?  That there is something you are destined for, someone you are destined to meet, marry….a life that is laid out for you and all you have to do is follow the path?  A hard concept to wrap our brains around.  These are questions that creep into my conscious mind every so often.  More so now than ever before in my life.  For a while I just sort of followed along reliving the same mistakes and not looking outside the box I had placed myself into.


Once I started making deliberate choices, I would find the path smoother and things would move ahead.  But like clockwork I would fall into the old patterns that had not served me but seemed safe on the old path.  As I discovered, when I stood still long enough to really think about it, I was realizing what life is all about….it is about our path, our experiences, the good and the bad. The choices we make along that path, and how we are given opportunities to change those choices if they have not served us well.

And I discovered that letting things happen by chance isn’t always the best method.  In life and in my garden there are choices that we do make.  I don’t believe in accidental circumstances.  If you look back over your life you will see the path as it has happened. How you landed where you are currently.  It is all in the choices you and those around you make that influence your path.

And as I ponder this question further, I think about nature.  How we cannot even begin to try to figure out the choices Mother Nature makes.  They appear as accidents to us.  What are accidents?  Not planned, unexpected, happening by chance.  I cannot believe Mother Nature would just leave things to chance.  We just are not privy to her plan, the circumstances that underly what happens around us in the weather, the way a seed will germinate or not, why this year in a drought I had tomato blight?

red valerian

But there is one chance occurrence I find in nature; plant volunteers.  I know that pollinators  and birds will help move seed around or the wind will blow them hither and yon.  They lay dormant until conditions exist to germinate the seed and start the young sprout.  But it is where they land that is the chance, the accident.

Some land right in the middle of another plant.  It makes for an interesting bloom time, and then deciding how I will separate them.  Some  grow between the bricks of my patio.  Mostly annuals that I have deadheaded and the butterfly bush.  Others grow tall in front of the border.  I leave these as well and decide later where to move them.  But I love these volunteers in my garden.  All except one.  Those seedlings from invasive plants that will easily take over a natural habitat and push out the native flowers.  These I dispose of.  If I have to choose I will choose the plants that the critters prefer.

I know many people do not like to run around and pull out seedlings that grow all over, even the native seedlings.  But it is part of gardening.  Some plants require that you let them seed since they are not long lived perennials.  Many rudbeckias, columbines and gaillardias are examples of this.  Hey where can you go and find dozens of free flowers blooming around your garden.  It is what nature intends, this seeding of the Earth.

swamp milkweed

I know for many people your garden is not a meadow, and if you had wanted a meadow, you would have planted one.  But I find it gratifying to look on these volunteers as a blessing.  More plants to move about; to help fill in a space.  These are also the happy accidents we can share with others.  The photos scattered about this post are of my volunteers.  I am joining Donna@Garden Walk Garden Talk for her Word for Wednesday meme.  Can you guess the word this week?  Accidental.

I thought I would share a bit of wrap up in the garden in honor of The Patient Gardeners’s End of the Month meme.  Veg gardening is definitely not something we can leave to chance.  If I could only figure out more about Mother Nature and how she does things?  Oh well…All in all the season was good to me.  My flowers bloomed beautifully and I had mild success in the veg garden.

Radishes, lettuces, garlic, carrots, cayennes and green chiles were all a great success.  Beets, peas, beans, tomatoes, sweet peppers, egg plant and sweet potatoes were a mild success.  My second planting in fall was a complete bust.  But I am not one to give up with the veggies or fruits.  I planted more blueberries and moved the raspberries that were running rampant on the flower beds.  I moved the strawberries to the main bed to better control the harvest.  As for the grape, we will have to start over to see why it is not really growing where I have it.

We added another small raised bed, and I am already contemplating another raised bed by next fall.  We shall see.  I want to be able to manage what I have before biting off more than I can chew which is a frequent problem for me.  I planted the round raised bed that is a bit too shady for veggies with spring bulbs.  I will seed it with annual flowers and eventually may plant it up with perennials.  I think I like the idea of a cutting garden for this bed.  Also on tap will be the widening of the front garden with a bit of a redesign.  And I hope to widen the garden between the trees by taking out a bit more turf.  We shall see how the soil amendment helped certain gardens, and perhaps reduced the horsetail growth.  Of course other gardens are slated for amendment this coming season.  We ran out of time and energy.

The big change will be the source of the veg and flower plants this year.  I am hoping to have success this winter using my new seed growing station in the basement.  Then as spring nears, I will be starting more of my own veg and flower seeds to use in the gardens.  We decided to wait to start experimenting with growing herbs and greens indoors until after the holidays.  We travel in November and December to see family and we didn’t want to leave the seedings unattended.

So there it is, lots doing still here during the winter.  Lots to plan for and design.  I leave you with one of my favorite quotes.

“It is our choices…that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities”– J. K. Rowling

Coming next week will be another addition of Gardens Eye Verse with some new poems I hope you like. And please join me at Beautiful Wildlife Gardens for my latest post, Workhorses in My Native Garden.


As always, I’ll be joining Tootsie Time’s Fertilizer Friday.  So drop by to check out all the wonderful flowers this Friday.

Please remember, to comment click on the title of the post and the page will reload with the comments section.

All content is copyrighted and the sole property of Donna Donabella @ Gardens Eye View.  Any reprints or use of content or photos is by permission only.




  1. Alistair says:

    Yes Donna, I have had reason to think at times our destiny is marked out for us. However learning to make the right decisions and not relying on prayers to help us out is the best path to follow. Lets keep our prayers to be thankful and for the help of others, I think if there is a god this is what he wants. Fantastic post as usual.

    • Donna says:

      Lovely thoughts Alistair. I do send up prayers of gratitude for all I have, and I have recently realized I have to take control of my life and make the choices on that path I was meant to follow…it has made my life so much richer and joyful!! So glad you enjoyed the post…I tend to get more philosophical as the days grow shorter….more time to ponder things which can be good or bad!

  2. tina says:

    It might be comforting to think our destinies were already thought out if we only knew what they might be. Your new bed looks very nice and ready for some plants too. That fence is very nice.

    • Donna says:

      Tina it is comforting to think that at times, but now I want to be more aware of what that path is…so glad you like the new bed…it is full of rich soil and composted leaves on top keeping it safe and ready for those plants and seeds this summer….the fence was one of the main things I wanted in my back gardens…I love white picket fences and with neighbors right next door it made sense for my gardens to be fenced…oh and the pond is a hazard for children so we had to have a fence.

  3. Island Threads says:

    Donna some nice volunteer flowers growing in your garden,
    I fluctuate over the term ‘destiny’ I feel we can only make choices on our lives in the small area around us, we can sometimes do little about the actions of others against us, there are larger things we can have very little contol over unless a lot of other people feel the same such as is happening in the middle east and north Africa just now and we can’t control earthquakes etc. no one choses to be seriously ill, no one choses to be born into povery and drought, that is an accident of birth, I think there is a ‘plan’ and we are a very insignificant part of it, we are afteral not detroying the planet but destroying it’s ablity to support us, mother nature usually has the rule of survival of the fittist we try to change that,
    your plans for your garden are interesting and I look forward to seeing them next year, you sound (to me) very productive with your veggies, I love most volunteer plants too infact I would welcome more of them, Frances

    • Donna says:

      Frances such a wonderfully thought provoking comment. I agree we can only make choices for ourselves…others make choices that do indeed affect us and we cannot control them. And only we control our choices over what we do to the Earth. I do hope that my choices will be a positive effect on others and the Earth…it is how I try to live…..I find the pollinators have a lot to do with my volunteers. I am learning to collect seed this coming year (teaching myself) and would be happy to share some seed to give you some volunteers. I am making progress with the veg garden and learn more every year…thx as always for your thoughts…you certainly make me think more…

      • Island Threads says:

        Donna thank you for your generous offer of seeds but as I live on another continent it might not be a good idea to transfer seed and I don’t know what the laws are on importing seed,
        I too have tried to collect some seeds this autumn for the first time and like you just learning about seed collecting,
        I think the reason I don’t have more volunteers is the birds eating seeds, I’m not complaining as like you I love having the birds in my garden and do encourage them, thanks again, Frances

  4. Jess says:

    I am a firm believer in the fact that we hold a good portion of our destiny in our own hands, and each little choice we make every day combines to form the results we see. Chance does happen, as does bad and good luck, but I see so often that the end result of any of those is what you make of them.

  5. Carolyn @ Carolyns Shade Gardens says:

    My middle son attended Hyde School in Bath, Maine, for a year. Your post sounds like it came from their literature–they are big on destiny and choice vs. ability. I do believe in destiny, and all the other stuff is just challenges to be surmounted. It is very hard to see your destiny because negative habits from childhood often get in the way. I especially agree that our choices are much more important than our abilities.

    • Donna says:

      Glad you enjoyed the post…I have learned from experience my choices have mattered more…I love all the different perspectives…makes one think even more.

  6. Curbstone Valley Farm says:

    It would depend on when you asked me as to whether I believe in chance or not. Part of me does perhaps the more romantic side, but the other part of me, my more matter of fact rational half, believes life is very much what we make it. Perhaps I look at destiny more as fortunate circumstance that afforded an opportunity to make a choice in my favor? Certainly though I’ve had times where I’ve needed to grab life by the horns and force a change though. I agree, leaving life’s events to circumstance, although easy to do, isn’t always right, but sometimes there are happy accidents along the way.

    As for those opportunistic seedlings though, this year I’ve had to make more choices. If I let my Mizuna or Tatsoi pop up by chance, I think they’d take over! 😉 Good luck with your indoor seed-starting. That how we were doing it until this year when we finally put up the greenhouse.

    • Donna says:

      Clare maybe I will eventually graduate to a greenhouse once I master the indoor seed growing…lovely thoughts about life…I like the idea of thinking things are happy accidents. I have a few volunteers that have to be controlled as well…

  7. Donna says:

    I too think little is chance and somehow we always make the bed we lie in, good or bad. Destiny sounds so much better than chance though. It has a romantic ring to it and chance seems dull in comparison. You were right, I guessed you would do volunteer plants, you have a garden designed for the little guys I think. Plants for feeding the wildlife always have those seeds to scatter and disperse. Thanks for this ‘volunteer’ post and being first with it. You always lend a different perspective that is so well written. Accidental was a hard one to picture without words this week, I think. But I bet there will be posts that do.

  8. Sheila says:

    I like volunteer seedlings so much that it’s still hard for me to pull them up (except for weeds, of course). I recently discovered a new parsley patch in the walkway underneath a parsley plant I had let go to seed 🙂 Columbine seedlings are also encroaching on another part of the walkway. If I don’t do something soon, the garden will take over the path …

    • Donna says:

      Diana I am so happy for destiny…I love the spot adoption program and Elizabeth was in touch today. I plan to do a bit of a post on this wonderful program so we could perhaps get more to adopt!!

  9. Laura @ PatioPatch says:

    Confess that tumbleweed has tended to be my MO. The older I become, the less sure I am of what I believe and the more certain that there is something to belive in. Not quite Destiny’s child but getting there.
    So much tenderness in your Milkweed image Donna- I’d welcome being swamped by such volunteers!

  10. alison@thisbloominglife says:

    I love the idea of creating our destiny, I’ll be keeping that quote thanks! I’m a big fan of the volunteers. Friends hate some of the plants I love for their generosity. I would rather be pulling the volunteers out and moving them around than be pulling weeds! Glad to have found you!

  11. thevioletfern says:

    What interesting views … inward and of the garden. I look forward to seeing your new garden beds! I love “accidental” volunteers in my garden. Also truly enjoyed your post on native workhorses. Glad to see I do have some working in my garden.

    • Donna says:

      Kathy how lovely to have your feedback on both posts…glad you enjoyed them…I hope you can visit the new beds this summer if they are done by then…

  12. Janet/Plantaliscious says:

    Ah, the age-old debate, free will vs. predestination/destiny. I think I believe that we are the product of both our genes, and of our life experience, and that our life experience is partly molded by our choices – paths taken, not taken, how we choose to react to what we come up against – and by blind chance. I don’t believe the Hand of Destiny decrees that these hundred or so people shall perish through earthquake, these tens survive, or that one person develops a brain tumor and another doesn’t. I think we need to take responsibility for the choices we do make, but I don’t think we can completely control anything, not even our gardens. And one person’s serendipity is another’s savage invader… Thought provoking post Donna. As gardeners I think we attempt to stay optimistic and maintain a level of control and intent in an environment ever subject to changes beyond our control, whether random self-sown interlopers which can make or break a carefully planned scheme or with weather that is extreme and extremely challenging (drought in Texas, for instance). It is the dance between control and chaos that I think I most love about both life and gardening – and which is the most frustrating and sometimes scary part of at least the former.

    • Donna says:

      Janet I really enjoyed your comment…actually all the comments have been so interesting…I so agree that destiny does not have complete control nor do we…and chaos in the garden…always trying to exert some level of control is my main job in the garden and life….thx for joining in the discussion!!

  13. Christina says:

    What a thought provoking post, thank you Donna. I realise that certainly all the best things in my life have been because I took some very positive action, moving to Italy being one of the most dramatic. Christina

    • Donna says:

      How wonderful Christina. I am so glad you liked the post. It is when we take control of those choices and turn to the positive we find our life is so much better…

  14. Karen says:

    I really enjoyed your post on the word ‘accidental’. I have many volunteers self-seeding here and there in my garden, but for the most part (as long as they’re flowers and not weeds!) I leave them be. They add so much beauty to my rather unruly landscaping.

    Sometimes it is very difficult to make a choice, especially if what we choose affects another person. Years ago I had to make a very difficult decision. I didn’t want to, but someone told me, ‘Making a decision not to choose is a choice all its own.’

    Thankfully, everything worked out for the best in the end. Life is definitely accidental at times.

    • Donna says:

      Karen I have often said to people that not making a decision is indeed a decision of inaction…I don’t think of your landscape as unruly…but those self-seeders are a bonus…

  15. Bom says:

    This is a very thought-provoking post. I think I have an equal belief in both. Some things in your life are controlled by destiny and some things are made by choice. I think a good example is that destiny dictates who you meet, who you study with, who you work with. It is choice that determines who will be your spouse, your closest friends.

    Accidental plants are always a welcome surprise. I have quite a few unplanned for plants in my garden. No idea where they came from I kept them and they have blended in wonderfully.

  16. HolleyGarden says:

    Wonderful post. I love the first quote. I used to believe in destiny, but I don’t anymore. When something bad would happen, I would always be able to find the silver lining, the reason ‘why’ I had to endure those things, the way it all weaved together. Then one day I couldn’t. And that has changed me forever.

  17. PlantPostings says:

    Wow, this post hit me at a particularly vulnerable time. Sometimes I think we’re perfectly willing to choose a different path, but life temporarily (or sometimes permanently) closes it off from us. It’s kind of like seeing a wonderful mountain trail that you want to hike, but you’re on crutches or you have a heart condition, or some other ailment. And seeing other people take that hike when you want to do it yourself can be particularly painful. The comments are thoughtful, too. Thanks, Donna!

    • Donna says:

      Beth I am so glad the post was meaningful to you…it is something I wrestle with all the time, but I am closer to my own truth with it…I hope things are OK???

      • PlantPostings says:

        Everything’s good, Donna. Just trying to find a way to spend more time doing the things I love while I’m still healthy and still support my family. Thanks for asking. I guess a lot of people are in the same situation. 🙂

    • Donna says:

      Dee how lovely to see you..I so enjoyed your post…glad you enjoyed mine…I agree that we are given more chances for making the choices that will keep us on that path…Happy Advent to you too!!

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