Craning my neck to see the sky among my grandfather’s towering corn stalks is one of my earliest memories. Papa’s fresh-picked peas, rhubarb, strawberries, mint and sweet corn, and their aroma in my grandparents’ kitchen stirred a deep sense of well-being and peace in my two-year-old psyche, and the imprint has remained throughout my life.
Kids and Gardening – Missed Opportunities
In my early twenties, blissfully expecting my first child, I was happy to be feeling like a true Earth Mother, as I worked with my children’s father in our large organic garden. Planting medicinal herbs on a sunny California day, I can only say that I “downloaded” a message (long before that term was coined). The words I heard or felt were something like this:
“There is no adversity on the planet for which there’s not already a solution growing from the Earth. We are self-contained.” Clear as a bell. I hope I imparted that unexpected gift of wisdom to my kids, but, alas…
Someone once asked me what I’d do if I had only 24 hours to live. The answer was quick, and almost alarming: I would teach my sons how to grow food and medicine. I’ve tormented myself, wondering how I never found time to do that. Was I so busy providing financial sustenance for them, I’d simply forgotten to teach them basic survival skills? Regardless, they’re exploring their own joy in gardening as adults, and are letting their little ones join in. Thankfully, they spent time as little ones in their own grandfather’s corn patch.
School Gardening Program
As a senior volunteer, I watch wide-eyed 8-year-olds in the local school gardening program. Some of these kids are clearly surprised at how all the systems of a plant, soil, sun and water, work together to create food. Most of them are interested, some are fascinated, some simply mesmerized.
They get to plant, water, weed and taste what grows there, right in the courtyard of their school. They’re taught a deep respect for all the living beings that inhabit the garden, because they’ve learned the role each one plays. They know not to stomp a spider or kill a bee. They enjoy feeding their seedlings with the compost they’ve been working all year.
Whatever paths they choose as adults, the seeds of gardening have been planted in their young hearts during this magical hour spent weekly in their school garden.
Self-Quarantine – Gardening Revelations Keep Coming
My mother passed away last month. In this prolonged period of quiet isolation, I’ve roamed through memories of my childhood. When I was young, both my parents always had something growing – maybe a sign of their faith in the future, or some symbol of their trust in the process of life. Between the two of them, I grew up amidst lush tropical patio plants, burgeoning houseplants and fruit trees. Weeding this year’s spring flowers, I’m thinking I may have inherited my mom’s deep appreciation of beauty.
But they, too, forgot to teach me how to grow food and medicine. When their nest was empty, they gardened with rigor, recreating the aromas and sensations of my childhood at Papa’s. It’s imperative, perhaps now more than ever, that children become imprinted with experiences of plants and soil, even if it’s just from watching someone in the garden.
Let’s be sure our kids know where their food comes from. Maybe there is something growing here to soothe every human struggle. The mere act of gardening can bring a sense of peace like nothing else. Besides, the future of the planet may depend on it.