Friday, February 26, 2010

Life Lessons from the Garden

I have a growing stack of seed catalogues on my nightstand. I’ve been flipping those babies as though they are steamy romance novels, drifting off to sleep with visions of purple carrots and asparagus crowns dancing in my head. It doesn’t matter that I awoke this morning to a thermometer that registered five-below zero; I’m readying myself for spring.

It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago I was a complete gardening novice. Now I can talk diatomaceous earth and spot a flea beetle like an old pro. Along the way, gardening has taught me a lot about life. Here’s a sampling of the life lessons I’ve learned from my garden.

Live in the moment. As a northern gardener, my time among the zucchini and zinnias is short. The work of weeding and watering can seem daunting, but I have to stay focused on the fact that the first frost is always nipping at my heels. Sitting among the plants, bringing in flowers for the table and eating sugar snap peas from the vine helps me to immerse myself in the bounty and keeps me focused on enjoying the here and now. Finding the goodness in my current circumstances might not always come naturally, but even if it takes work, I’m happier and more content if I can practice being in the moment.

It is possible to have too much of a good thing. By mid-June, I swear we’ll all turn green from eating so much lettuce. I bring bags of produce everywhere I go during the summer, peddling it at work, among friends, and even at the doctor’s office. I promise myself every year that I won’t over do it when I’m planting, but I usually end up throwing heaps of bolted lettuce into the compost pile. I’d rather have less and enjoy it more, with lettuce and everything else.

I need to find time and space for my passions. I’ve found that a wagon strewn with animal crackers is an indispensable tool when trying to get the garden chores done. Babies that can’t yet walk are content to sit and watch, and the ones that can move never stray too far from the food.

If I waited for the perfect moment to get out into the garden, it would never come. When there’s hoeing to do, I have to work within slivers of time and sometimes need to use cookies to distract my children. The lesson in gardening and in all of life is this: If I love something, I need to find a way to do it.

Bad things will happen, but they don’t have to ruin everything. I’ve done battle with pocket gophers that strike in the night and grasshoppers that have set up shop in the radicchio. Unfortunately, I can’t seal off my garden from trouble that might come. I can learn to be thankful for the little victories (finally getting a tomato to ripen on the vine) and wonders (the droves of ladybugs feasting on aphids) that I see. My garden will sometimes disappoint me, and so will life, but I don’t want disappointment to shape my attitude.

Getting out into the garden and sinking my hands into the warm, loamy dirt makes me feel fully alive. And I’m so very glad for the opportunity to be a student of that little plot of land outside my backdoor.

Carey Denman

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