The promise of gardening

Gardening is a promise. I can’t think of a better way to describe it.
I don’t know if anyone else has said that before me, but I’m saying it now.
We scour seed catalogues in early spring and examine seed racks at every second store. We start seeds inside, making little incubators for them and watching for their tiny green heads to rise out of the soil.
And all this is based on hope—no matter how green our thumbs are and no matter how deep our pedigree is in gardening, it is all about hope and promise.
Spring sees an explosion of garden centres with their plants and trees and shrubs and seeds. Every store puts up a tent or awning, under which they put their garden offerings.
We gather up their goods and bring them home, promising to nurture and love them, hoping we remember what the plants are after the tag has faded from rain and sunlight.
And sometimes when these plants erupt into bloom, it’s like a surprise party and we are almost inclined to clap our hands and jump up and down. We kept the promise.
I’m not much of a gardener. I admire plants and their beauty and their status as living art, but I leave the details to David. I am a closet gardener, though, wishing I had my own little plot to tuck plants into and promise to take proper care of them, and hope to see them grow them up.
I think gardening comes from the very core of us as human beings; to nurture and cultivate and care for the soil and reap the rewards of that care. I feel noble heading to the garden to gather things for supper.
I feel almost bionic when I put our own fruit in the blender for a super smoothie.
David brought in a bowl of freshly-picked strawberries one morning last week and it was beyond delightful—just the sight of them started the day off on a high note. They were round and plump and red and perfect.
We covered the strawberry patch with netting to discourage the airborne thieves, but I felt slightly guilty at not sharing. A strawberry must be a delicious treat to birds and other would-be garden stalkers.
We also have blueberries and raspberries and haskap (the latest giant on the fruit front for health benefits), along with heritage tomatoes and a billion other things. It’s a lovely sight and a positive feeling; we are prepared should the grocery giants collapse.
I planted a ginkgo tree in my side yard. I call it my tree. I love its oddly-shaped leaves and the fact that it is considered a “living fossil.”
It is similar to fossils dating back 270 million years. That’s quite a feat of longevity and it has no relatives anywhere on Earth, as if it is the one strain of that tree that made it through.
Talk about a promise.
When I am out driving, I see people kneeling down in their gardens, pulling weeds, loosening the soil, snipping dead blooms, arguing with bugs. It’s a bit like prayer, like going to church—a faith all its own.
I was thinking about souls who are lost among us; those who grew up with violence and poverty and abuse, those whose paths came at cross angles to the law, the mentally ill, the disenfranchised.
If they had the opportunity to garden, to plant and care for a piece of land, to put their hands in the soil and make a promise there, to plant hope that will clearly show itself, I’m willing to bet some of their wounds would heal; that they would find themselves in that soil and what they created there.
I think Claude Monet, the famous impressionist painter, said it best: “My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.”
wendistewart@live.ca

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