Thursday, December 29, 2005

Thoughts On Gardening

I grew up in a farming family. It was not a mega-farm, and we sold very little that we ate. On the other hand, we did feed ourselves with the food we grew, which is great for the finances and healthy bodies. As an adult, though, I have never been into gardening. I cannot tell you why or what keeps me from gardening, but I have some ideas.

For starters, I have lived in the city. Having grown up with acres and acres of farmland around me, I never really considered the possibility of container gardening. Sure, my grandmother had a few plants, including aloe, in containers, but I did not really consider the possibilities of that type of gardening for vegetables or herbs.

Second, I viewed gardening as a sort of women's hobby, and I have vehemently opposed anything, like quilting, that I view as a traditional woman's enjoyment. It is not even because I do not like those things; it is out of principle. Gardening fell into this category. Then there are the less idealistic reasons. One is money. I always thought gardening was an expensive hobby, and we could not spare the money on it. Second is time. My life is full of business and family and chores, and I cannot add something else to my plate.

Now, though, I find myself rethinking gardening. First, I know a good deal about gardening through my work, where I have written a number of gardening articles. Then there are the bits and pieces I picked up just existing in my childhood. So I am a bit ahead of the game there for a novice gardener.

Then there are more abstract reasons that I reconsider gardening. Now that we can afford it, and I know that I can do it for cheap anyway, I am thinking that maybe it would be a good idea to try to get into it. Last year, we had one tomato plant. My husband and I joked that it was our first year planting a garden. We ate about 10 tomatoes off that one plant. None of them were very big, but they were delicious! I enjoyed picking our own vegetable from our own plant and eating it. Plus, I love tomatoes, but they are expensive in our area. It was a great treat for the family to eat what we had grown.

I also think about the spirituality of gardening. Having grown up in a very emotional evangelical Protestant house, I yearn for the same kind of spiritual connection that I had as a child. It is not about God proper or salvation. It goes beyond that. If we believe that God exists in all of Nature, because He made it, then we can commune with God and get in touch with our spirituality through everyday acts. This kind of closeness to God is what I believe can make my life feel better.

Gardening is one way that I believe I can reach this pinnacle of spiritual fulfillment. Religion and earth are twisted up together for me. Being part of the planet's natural processes, watching something grow from nothing, giving myself to nurture something else are all part of being spiritually and emotionally fulfilled. When I think of gardening, I can see those connections. Maybe I am only fooling myself, but I am thinking of giving gardening a shot this year, beyond my one tomato plant, so that I can experience the serenity that gardeners report feeling about their hobby.

The whole gardening experience can be an adventure. I will do my research, get the right gear (which for me will be little more than gloves and one of those little shovels), and try my hand at gardening. My baby will be a toddler by the spring (yikes!), so he can toddle along behind me to help. It can be fun. It can be our adventure together.

Maybe after a couple of gardening seasons, I will catch the bug. Then I can become one of those crazy women who is always obsessing about what is growing where and when. If it does not catch on, then hey, I will have tried. It will move to my list of hobbies that were not for me, and I will begin a new adventure. Life, after all, is about having adventures everyday.

By Julia Mercer

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