“To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” -Mohandas K. Gandhi
There is little else that brings me the joy of planting flowers. At the first sign of a warm spring day, my first impulse is to plant flowers. Choosing flowers to fill my planters and walkway is like choosing a palette of paints. Getting lost in the nursery, surrounded by endless bursts of color and scent is my sunny day version of heaven. There is little work in the world that restores your five senses so completely as working in the garden.
I did not grow up learning how to tend a garden. I knew nothing of the importance and satisfaction of feeding the soil and had never witnessed the wonder of watching seeds become food. I didn’t grasp the magic of buds becoming blossoms as a child. I learned about the universe of gardening in my 20s when we moved to the Northwest, where almost everything grows. Harvest here, even after 10 years, always surprises. We have varieties of fruits and vegetables here in the Willamette Valley that most people have never heard of.
For my 40th birthday my husband built me a beautiful fence to keep the garden from the deer. It doesn’t’ do much to prevent the moles and raccoons from helping themselves, but living on five wooded acres, I don’t complain. I know they were here first. The animal inhabitants not withstanding, I still attempt to grow some of our own food every year. Even a small harvest of shelling peas feels like a great success and whatever food we pull from the earth and eat tastes different from the produce at the store. The freshness of the food may well come from our direct connection to the earth. Wendell Berry once wrote: “One of the most important resources that a garden makes available for use, is the gardener’s own body. A garden gives the body the dignity of working in its own support. It is a way of rejoining the human race.”
I am not the first to compare the work of keeping a garden as an active prayer. It is a way to keep faith with the earth. To pay attention to the smallest details of daily care and be rewarded with a bounty that you only gave a small part. I take so much pleasure in watching my children wonder at the flavors of the garden. I don’t make them work in it, but every now and again they ask me if I need help, which is not even a question in garden work. Gardens are the daily reminder that miracles are happening all around us, and not the least of it is in the cultivation of the earth.