“There are few things that digging in the ground cannot cure,” said our elderly neighbor in her deep Southern Mississippi accent who is often full of wisdom. A gardener herself with an amazingly beautiful yard and a former school teacher, she told me how she used to tell her students that the best way to get over being upset was to go get your hands dirty by planting in a garden. There is something so satisfying about putting your hands in that good earth and planting a seed. There is a joy in the soul from watching that seed grow from just a tiny thing to a beautiful plant. There is also a peacefulness found when we disconnect from the noise of the world and focus on this simple, yet miraculous part of life.
I will never forget 10 years ago at our new home we planted a few shrubs in our backyard not even knowing what type of plants they were. We would soon be getting married and traveling to Capri for our honeymoon. When we returned from our honeymoon we went to our home as newlyweds and walked to our screened porch. As we turned the corner of our porch we saw 5 bushes covered in beautiful white blooms. As we opened the door to walk out into the backyard the fragrance of the blossoms was intoxicating. We had planted gardenias unknowingly and what a beautiful welcome home from the good earth.
As a child I watched my father make a garden every year. He always wanted us to help plant the seeds, as a young child this was like a science experiment, but to a 14 year old girl this was torture. All my life I watched my mother grow the most beautiful plants and always have a lush patio and backyard. My aunt and grandmother loved beautiful plants and every spring would have gorgeous hanging baskets on their porches. Eventually these examples would play into my adult life, now gardening is one of my favorite things to do. And something I can do with my daughter.
I hear people say all the time how they do not have a green thumb. I remember how I too started out gardening – I was unprepared, unknowledgable, and unpracticed. Firstly, you are not going to be able to grow anything if you do not read its care instructions and study your yard. Sure there is a chance that a first-time gardener may buy a low maintenance plant and it just thrives, but just like anything in life more than likely you are going to need to learn and practice to garden well. Secondly, if you want a garden whether its a raised bed vegetable garden or an English rose garden, you have to learn about every aspect of what your plants will need- from the soil to the water to the sun. Once you have learned this you may find gardening a bit easier. Now do not be surprised when a rainy season hurts your veggies or Japanese beetles attack your roses, these happenings are all part of gardening too. But oh the rewards when you have a basket full of heirloom tomatoes to make a Caprese Salad, fresh herbs to cook with, or fresh cut Lincoln roses to give a friend.
There is something to be learned from the dirt, the land. The good earth is a place of birth, decay, and resurrection – it is a living breathing life source that we should live in harmony with, enjoying it and replenishing it. When we get our hands dirty, plant seeds, watch them grow, and harvest, we begin to understand how we are a part of the land. In many religions, man’s first account is from the earth. In the bible God creates man from dust, in ancient Egypt it was believed that the ram-headed God Khnum created mankind from clay, in the Qur’an Allah creates Adam out of clay and names him ‘Adam’ because he is made of the skin (adim) of the earth. This living, breathing planet we live on breeds life and when we plant a garden we breed life.
Gardening so often classified as a ‘hobby’, should more aptly be classified as worship. For anyone who has toiled and worked the soil, planted seeds and watched them germinate, experienced the beautiful bounty of a mid-summer’s harvest, and endured the vigor of winter awaiting the promise of spring and its rebirth, this is no ‘pastime’ or light activity. It is earnest, hard work. There is a soulful connection to a garden that begins with that first dirt under the fingernails and a renewal of the spirit when once again spring rolls around and seedlings begin breaking through the soil. In the autumn before her death, E.B. White recalls his wife, New Yorker Magazine Editor Katharine S. White, busy in the garden planting and “calmly plotting the resurrection”. A garden takes work, devotion, love, and of course faith in the rebirth of spring.
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