Gardens stand out as a large part of my childhood. I remember planting flowers with my mom, herbs with my grandmother, hearing about Victory Gardens from my great grandmother, and harvesting with my aunt and uncle. My grandfather taught me the names of trees to stop me from crying when I was little, and my dad would bring home tropical plants that no longer served his customers at work.
But this is the 21st century. So plants were replaced by phones, and my hobbies have become Facebook and Snapchat and email, and of course there’s the job that takes up a third (or more) of my day five days out of the week. Hiking, planting, and learning about nature have fallen to the wayside– which would greatly disappoint my 5th grade self, as I was determined to be living off the land in the Catskills before I graduated high school.
An opportunity has presented itself, however, for me to return to those roots. The silver lining of the pandemic is that there is little that can be done outside of the home, and so entertainment and enrichment must be found in and around it. When my fiance purchased flowers to put into our multitude of pots, I opted to purchase some herb and vegetable seeds and actually use the raised bed I always said I was going to.
My garden isn’t perfect. There are weeds that I can’t seem to get under control; my chives are really really struggling; I haven’t used much besides the leaf lettuce, and even then, there’s more than even the local rabbits could consume in a timely fashion. My house plants are also hit or miss– who knew succulents were so finicky? But it has been a delightful practice in these crazy times.
I find myself taking a break from work emails, pausing my incessant social media scrolling, and walking into the back yard to pull some weeds from around my burgeoning parsley plants, or starting my day by giving them a drink before the sun and emails both become oppressive. I pull off leaves that are no longer serving the plants and check the peppers to see if any are ready to be picked. And just for fun, I rub a sprig of lavender or mint or cilantro or basil just to get an occasional whiff of their scents as I go about my day.
A retreat to the garden has been tremendous when faced with the complexity of society. It’s almost a mediation in itself, and a commentary on the nature of life and progress. I found myself thinking the other day while weeding how it serves as a metaphor for self-improvement– cultivating positive habits and thoughts like flowers while working to remove negative ones like weeds, a perpetual task that’s never quite complete; a simple practice, yet not an easy one.
With everything going on, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and helpless. The act of placing a seed or start in water or soil and nurturing it so that it grows has been so grounding these past few months. I have a lot to learn about proper harvesting and how to increase yield and things, but I get excited at the thought, bolstered by every lettuce leaf and spray of cilantro used in a home-cooked meal. It’s wonderful to spend time in garden; I think you may enjoy it too.