Friday, February 06, 2009

Five Reasons Why I Garden

Every once in a while I come across something someone has written that expresses my passions and philosophy more eloquently than I can ever hope to articulate here. Therefore I feel that it must be shared on this blog. The author of this essay was one of my farm subscribers last year who worked for part of her CSA share. One of the joys of operating a CSA farm is the realization of the truth that my farm and my business belongs, not just to us, but also to those who become actively involved, either as work share participants on the farm, or as volunteer help with the annual CSA organization process. Something similar can also be said on behalf of those who support our farm in other ways with their patronage. Without their contribution, the successful operation of this farm would probably be impossible. When I include the thoughts and words of others as a part of my blog, the blog becomes not just mine but theirs also. I like to think that when I include their contributions, the blog becomes that much the better than it would be if I was trying to do it all myself.

Five Reasons Why I Garden
by Anna Maria Johnson

I am not a gardening expert. I am, in all honesty, a fairly lousy gardener! But I do work at it, and if my actual garden fails to measure up to the orderly, weed free, and well mulched cornucopia of abundance imagined in my head, there is probably a good lesson in there somewhere.



Here are five good reasons to garden.

Peaceful Protest:

Gardening is a peaceful protest—my response to all that is ugly in the world; all that is cheap, easy, and gas guzzling; all that comes wrapped up in plastic after being shipped 3000 miles across the planet; all that causes cancer, social injustice, and oppression.

I am powerless to end these things myself on a global scale, but when I set my shovel down on my small plot of earth, I declare, “In God’s name, not here! Not in my back yard!”

Hope:
Gardening keeps me hoping. It often delivers on its promises, such as the summer when our Tarahumara sunflowers reached mythological heights. In autumn we feasted on squashes and late harvested vegetables, and during the winter my fifteen quarts of salsa nourished us and warmed our tongues.

Groundedness:
Gardening is, by its nature, grounding. There is nothing like physical work with our hands to bring comfort in times of disappointment. Anger can be a force for good, giving my measly 103 pound frame an extra punch as I throw my weight upon my shovel and churn up the dirt.

Digging is hard. After a couple of hours, dirty, sweat-soaked, and stinky, I feel cleansed. I ache with a good kind of ache.

Wonder:
To grow a garden is to marvel at creation. I drop tiny brown wrinkled things into the ground and every time I feel surprised when something eventually sprouts. I get so excited that I call my children and point to the tiny dicot leaves.

“Look, our food is growing!” I say.

We stoop down to admire its tiny new life, its persistence, its goodness.

Love:
Finally and most importantly, I garden for love. I love digging and the smell of rich earth. I get a kick out of compost—nothing wasted, just re-allocated, renewed, and regenerated. No death is so great that it cannot serve yet another life, another body. I am forgiven for letting those vegetables sit in the fridge until they rotted. Worms, soil, and detritus work together to make yummy vegetables and beautiful flowers. Gardening makes me strong, healthy, and whole. It is a relationship of reciprocity—I feed the garden and the garden feeds me. The food that the garden gives to me is physical, tangible, and tasty but it is also spiritual.

Gardening helps me to love God, who becomes less of an abstract theological construct and more the Surprising, Creating, and Sustaining force that I really do believe in.

The fruits of the garden nourish those I love—family, house guests, neighbors, and friends. Eating home-grown produce together is love in tangible form.

Anna Maria Johnson lives and gardens with her family near Broadway, Virginia.
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1 comment:

thedivinemiss said...

This was such a lovely post to read.