One of the things I like about gardening is that it forces me to look at the micro worlds around me instead of the “big picture.” This morning Milt and I took a little garden walk. In the rows of snow peas a dozen or more of the tiny sprouting plants had been pulled out. It looked so intentional—not like seeds washing away in a hard rain. They had been plucked out. Whatever small creature had messed with me, it must have happened only a little bit earlier. We took a hand spade and replanted them.
The big picture is sometimes just too big to consider. It breeds depression and inaction. How can one person possibly have an effect on so many moving variables? Poverty, war, economies, politics, education . . . In reality, we can’t. We just have to choose our small three inch worlds to work on and within. The garden teaches me how life works outside of my human expectation (and delusion). Chaos can come at any moment to any area of my garden, and if I just look at one small patch it can be weeded, cleared, fed, and tended to. In the end it looks strong and healthy again.
The garden teaches me patience. It doesn’t matter that I want it all done now and done perfectly. The garden doesn’t care. It is having its own explosion of life and messiness, and I serve it—it doesn’t serve me.
The garden teaches me to care about small things. Like snow pea seedlings or the lower leaves of a foot-high tomato plant that are showing unhealthy spots.
The garden teaches me respect for the source of my life. I understand in deep ways that it all begins and ends with the food source—and the parents who grow families. If we don’t carefully tend these two critical sources, we will no longer be.
The garden teaches me that we are vulnerable beings on this planet. I think sometimes that we are in denial about just how vulnerable we are. We think we are great beings instead of just part of a vast ecosystem.
Finally, the garden teaches me to experience awe and wonder . . . and joy. What is contained in a single seed is stunningly beautiful. I can barely see that carrot seed. I put it tentatively into the ground spreading the little “mites” in a row and two or three months later I pull a perfectly formed carrot out of the ground. Most are perfect and then occasionally you get a fun one that looks like a little dancing man, or a spirit woman with wild green hair.
Tonight my daughter and her six kids are coming from Wisconsin to help me plant the garden. I can’t tell them to experience all of these things that I just wrote about. I don’t get to lecture and explain and push the garden on them. I just get to stand back and watch them work with a tiny, three-inch world and see what happens . . . and hope it takes root.