This past Sunday morning, after watching (as much as I could stomach) the morning news crews scrambling over bits and pieces of information pertaining to the then rather fresh Orlando massacre, I went outside, and worked my ass off in the garden. I didn’t really go inside again until it got dark. Working in the garden does wonders for my soul, and my mental well being. I know it is always dangerous to make sweeping statements, but – against better judgement – I’m going to ignore that truth – once again.
There has been so much death lately – so much tragic, unnecessary death. With it comes the tremendous and often unimaginable suffering affecting all involved in the various tragedies around the world. I’m totally projecting my own feelings and opinions here, but I really feel we need a green revolution. I’m not talking “green” as in environmentally conscious (although we desperately need that kind of green revolution too). I’m talking about the restorative powers of being able to grow things. Gardening is an empowering, confidence-building, and life-enforcing activity. I’m usually a lazy gardener, who buys plants already growing in nursery pots. But lately, I have started experimenting with growing things from seed, and propagating from cuttings, layering, and division. I have to tell you, that when the seeds I sowed first sent up tiny little leaves, I felt like I had god-like powers. I was as proud as I can be of my children. Like an anxious mother bird, I checked their progress daily, misted, watered, and worried about the few seeds that were behind in their development. When the ones I had thought were duds finally sprouted, I was elated!
Seeing my own kids go through school with practically none of the stuff that I enjoyed (you know, arts, music, wood & metal shop, home ec, sewing – the kind of stuff that used to be part of a “well-rounded education”) has made me realize that kids nowadays are missing out – in a big way. As avid DIYers, and part of the creative set, my husband and I are privileged in that we can – at least to a point – supplement this gaping hole in our kids’ practical life development. But, not everyone can. Gardening as a craft and an art form is different from all the other arts in that it deals directly with life and death. It teaches patience, wonder, critical observation and analytical skills, and – in terms of materials needed – it is the great equalizer. Anyone can pick ripe seeds and grab a handfull of dirt, to sow them in – especially if someone teaches them how. But, my point for this time of aching, bleeding wounds, is that – more than most other activities – gardening is an affordable, healing activity that builds a mindset of awe, wonderment, keen curiosity, patience, acceptance, AND (this one is important) a respect for life – however it manifests itself.
The heinous act in Orlando showed an absolute lack of respect for life. It also targeted a group of people that have suffered far more than their share of judgement and brutality – all based in senseless fear and dogma. Seeing the videos of people dancing happily before the shooting, was heartbreaking, and still haunt me. Forgive my naiveté, but I have a vague sense that a mandatory introduction of our young to the miraculous powers of growing things, would build enough of a future awe for the possibility encased in a small seed, and nurture a wide-eyed, open-minded, more tolerant world view. (As opposed to the narrow, dogmatic, fear-based tyranny that more and more people promote.) With time, they would also learn that making different things thrive takes different measures – which builds patience, resilience, observation skills and tolerance. Just like growth takes time, this obviously wouldn’t happen overnight. With the world spinning out of control, throwing out random lashes of antagonistic views all around, I think we could make great gains if we reeled in our extracurriculars, and instead focused on teaching our kids and grandchildren how to plant a seed, water, wait, and observe life unfold. Heck, by all means, spread the gardener gospel to friends and colleagues too – the bigger the ripple, the better! As all of us gardeners know, it is not a process free of disappointment, but the rewards along the way are many and frequent, and the learning curve is continuing. There is a certain humbling comfort in knowing that one can never know it all. And, regardless of age, there is an amazing pleasure and pride in being able to create and sustain life. Am I too optimistic? Maybe, but I honestly feel that gardening can enhance and maybe even save lives. I know it is mine. What do you think – am I crazy?