This time of year, after putting the garden to bed, I get nostalgic. Thoughts of gratitude fill my mind and heart. This year, my thoughts turned to thanksgiving for the garden. I hope that something I say will spur you to think your own grateful thoughts.
My father taught me to garden. When I was very young, he let me have and be in charge of my own little plot of ground. He put seeds into my hand and helped me plant them. He taught me the Law of the Harvest; “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” He taught me the first commandment, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the Earth.” He taught me that to replenish is action to put back more than was taken. He taught me to respect both the Earth, and all life. I’ve reflected on this for years.
The Earth Poem (in ¾ time)
The earth is alive, ’though most men do not know it
They mar her and scar her with trophies to show it.
Men were placed on the earth to take care of her face,
to tend, and to dress her. To beautify space.
“Replenish the earth” a commandment from God.
So we scratch the earth’s back— we plant seeds in her sod.
We tend little spaces that we call our lands,
checker-boarding earth’s sides, ignoring her hands.
We build cities and factories, polluting her eyes.
We poison the air. We ruin the skies.
Some of us though, are aware of earth’s beauty.
We try to take care of her. It’s more than just duty.
We love Mother Earth. We tend and we feed her,
and soon we’ll realize just how much that we need her.
The earth has a voice, melodious and sweet.
Her breath is the wind bending grass at our feet.
The grass is fine hair covering her brown skin—
The trees are her clothing, changing now and again.
The sea is her tears and the lakes are her laughter.
The canyons her laugh-lines, forever here after.
The rocks and the sand, rich black soil is part
of her fantastic skin, covering her warm heart.
My father showed me the difference between the plants I wanted and the weeds. I learned by his example, his caring for the Earth, his deep faith, his patience. I loved to go to the garden center with him. We would spend hours there! He knew the names of each plant, both in English and in Latin. While I still suck at taxonomy, I became a Master Gardener, having gardened now for more than 55 years.
Another man who really had an impact on my gardening habits and views, was my soils professor at Utah State. He taught us to get our hands dirty. We learned to feel the different types of soil— the moisture, content, whether it was or wasn’t healthy and what was wrong. He also taught us to read the sky. One of my most vivid memories is crouching in a field and closing my hand on a muddy mess and actually knowing the make up of that mess.
The third person to make a huge difference in my gardening has been my little 103-year-old mother-in-law. She has grown a garden of beautiful flowers for more than 75 years. She has grown vegetables, but those are not her forte. She is an artist and does not know it. The blooms explode for her, from early spring until frost in the autumn. “Let Nature work. She’ll do a good job.” She knows what to put where. She taught me to enjoy the beauty of each plant.
Now that all but one of my ten children are grown and out of the house, this season has caused me to self-reflect. What have I learned from the garden and why does it matter? Not wanting to put my ideas in any specific order, I’ll just list them. And… while I am talking about plants and gardening, there are no-miss analogies to be made and who knows how many metaphors?
a) Each plant likes and needs a specific kind of soil. You can’t force a plant to thrive in a soil it doesn’t belong in. b) The same idea goes for area, zone, and location/place. Not every plant does well in the sunshine. c) Planning and preparation make (almost) perfect. d) Never plant your garden far away from a water source, and treasure the water you do have. e) Learn from your (and others’) mistakes. f) You cannot force patience. Don’t pray for it, either. g) Every plant and seed has merit in it’s own place. Seeds are a metaphor for our actions. h) Pruning is important. Sometimes, some parts need to be cut out before other parts can grow. i) It’s worth the work, and the wait. j) Change is okay, and trying new varieties, plants, or a different gardening method can be a good thing. k) Be realistic. (This one is especially hard.) l) Keep good records (and photos when necessary). m) Learn which plants are invasive in your area. n) Make wishes for your garden every year. o) It always takes longer than you think it will. p) You’re the one in charge. The plants aren’t. q) Make sure you have tools that fit your hands and that do the job. r) Bounty, abundance, and surplus mean that you will need to know how to preserve. s) Begin with good soil, good seeds, and prepared space. t) Weeding has a useful purpose. u) Which are good bugs, bad bugs… worms. v) Not everything is going to do well, or “make it.” w) Whether weed or plant, everything has a reason for being. x) Each plant gives. They nourish and vitalize us. They can comfort and end up nurturing us, not the other way around. y) Plants don’t argue. z) No time teaching a child in the garden, is ever wasted.