“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” Audrey Hepburn
Taken another way, to teach a child to garden gives them hope for tomorrow. We all need a reason to hope for tomorrow, and what better way to give that to a child than through a garden?
Watching the imaginations of my children blossom as they stare at a seed brings infinite amounts of joy. You can almost see their minds short circuit as they stare at the seed, the dry dirt, and a pail of water. Showing them the picture of the plant that it will become on the front of the seed packet only seems to make them more confused. Their excitement, bewilderment, and joy are compounded with each progression in the life cycle of the plant, and their hope is pushed a little more to wait just a little longer for the next surprise that the plant is willing to give them.
Think about gardening and the hope that each step provides. As each plant begins to wither or send shoots for seed, the gardener takes their last fruit and seeds in order to store them for the next year. They decide how they are going to utilize the decaying plant to support next year’s garden as well. Some leave the roots in the ground and cut the stocks to cover the soil. Others pull the plants out to throw into the compost pile, giving them the chance to decay into nutrients for the next year. Whatever the decision, it is all about the hope that they will be able to prep their beds to have the best crop they can in the next year.
Through the winter they toil with the soil to keep it hydrated appropriately. Cover crops, aeration, and mulch all keep the soil loose, hydrated, and full of nutrients, as well as provide an environment for the mycelium to thrive. As you decide where you are going to plant each crop you can start to address their desired soil needs. Partner planting establishes a symbiosis between plants in the hopes that they will benefit each other through the growing season.
Watching the seasons change you begin to prep your seeds, planting each one in a warm bed with adequate light and humidity giving them the best chance of success to grow. As they grow, care is taken to optimize their growth. As the sun begins to stay in the sky longer, the plants need to be taken outside, bit by bit, to harden them off to the elements. Trellises and cages are prepared to give support when needed. Eyeing the growth of each plant you can begin to realize which ones will need pruning, a necessary evil that either strengthens a plant to hold more fruit, or forces the plant to send nutrients to its fruit bearing vines.
As the plants mature the role of giver and receiver begin to change. Previously the gardener has been giving to ensure the best for the plant, now the plant begins to give back. The joy of seeing it flower and begin to bear fruit quickly turns into harvest where the plant kicks into full giving mode. If the plant and the gardener have worked together well, the bounty will be plentiful, allowing the gardener to give of the abundance to others. The seasons will change again and the cycle will continue. The gardener will take what they learned from the past growing season and make the necessary changes in hopes of an even better year to come.
The more time I spend with plants and my garden, the more entangled my soul becomes with not only them, but all of nature together. They begin to offer me a mirror of life that I can’t withdraw my gaze from.
To be the best husband/father/friend that I can be I have to ensure that the soil of my soul is adequately prepared. I need to be able to face the experiences from my past and decide how I’m going to process them. Am I going to sever them at the roots, leaving the soil undisturbed, and wrapping myself in the memories? Am I going to rip them out of the soil, chop them up, and mull them over and over until they slowly reveal the lessons that I need to learn. Let’s be honest, without preparing the soil of your soul, how are you going to healthily be in relationship with anything outside of your skin? Injured people injure people, while changed people change people.
As your soul’s soil becomes rich and fertile you can begin sharing it with seeds and seedlings that you come across in your life. As we reflect on current events, and especially the school shootings and student protests, the areas that need fertile soil become quite evident. Children need noticed, they need loved, they need guidance, they need the help to heal their wounds from people that have taken the effort to heal their own wounds, and they need hope. They don’t need armed teachers, to learn in prisons feigning as schools, or to be isolated and pitted further and further against others, they need connection to others and to nature.
Just like partner planting, surrounding yourself with people that compliment, support, and protect you will allow you to increase your yield. You will begin identifying the different roles you play for each person as well. Complimenting certain people, giving support to others when needed, and even protecting some that you might never even know about. For instance, investing into someone’s life might give them the hope they need to continue living, or to not take someone else’s life.
Working together you will more easily spot what needs pruned, modifications that should be implemented, and when individuals need some time to harden off to life’s realities. We are all custom designed and built as individuals that thrive together in community. Growth occurs as others help identify needs, and individuals take time for self work to fix them. This is when the individual and community begin to flourish and give fruit to each other, resulting in a wonderful harvest.
Once again my garden presents me with a mirror to gaze into, but this one has a slightly different reflection.
I start to realize that people aggregate with people as similar to them as possible. They even begin blaming other groups for their own problems. They isolate themselves out of fear of their differences, and knowledge begins to be hoarded within each group, but collectively lost.
As I gazed I realized that there are two things that are essential to everyone’s life. Two things that work together as sunshine and water on a garden. Sadly, we’ve been conditioned to forfeit one for grandiose visions of individual greatness, and the other in hopes of attaining more time. Community can and will be built by enjoying food slowly together.
Imagine what would happen if we started to share our yards with people that don’t have them to garden, kitchens to cook and bake, garages to brew, and our hope and love with those on the edge of giving up. Envisage intentionally becoming closer to everything around us from people to animals to plants and even to the soil instead of ignorantly isolating ourselves from absolutely everything except 12 square inches of gorilla glass.
We need to find a way to get people connected with with each other and nature again.
Gardening and community are a miracle of life that I don’t believe anyone truly understands, but that we all get the same joy from. How do those things work together to bring about life? Gardening provides the perfect soil for the mind to sprout a lifetime of thought, ideas, and most importantly, hope.
Because without hope, what do we do? Without hope, why enjoy community? Without hope, why bother living?
Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.