Zen and the Art of Gardening: What I’ve Learned from One Summer as a Green Thumb

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I have never had a garden before. I’ve helped people dig plots and planted a few things here and there but I tend to live up to the moniker of House Plant Killer. So this past summer, when a friend of mine from Mindfulness Together offered her garden plot to whoever would cultivate it and I volunteered, a few eyebrows were raised, including my own.

Let me be blunt: I had no idea what I was doing in May. The garden was massively overgrown with dandelions and creeping Charlie whose roots were deeper than the center of the Atlantic Ocean, but for some reason (probably because I hadn’t thought about it) this didn’t phase me. Digging and turning the soil diligently with the help of friends, I eventually got a pizza-shaped plot dug and was ready to plant.

I had no idea how and where to plant things so I came up with a strange pattern, threw too many seeds too close together, watered it, said a prayer and walked away. Throughout the first couple of weeks, I continuously removed the ever-encroaching weeds (feeling kind of bad about that every time) and waited for my sprouts to push through. Eventually they did and I had to get really selective about weeding lest I pull out my precious plants.

The routine of going to the garden every night or every second night became a sacred ritual for me and my daughter. After dinner, when we needed to get out of the house together (as two-year-olds so often do), we would walk ten blocks to our little plot, pull the weeds together, listen to the birds chirping, yell at an over-confident squirrel that “mommy is terrified of” and then water. Watering has been our favourite part – something about quenching the earth’s thirst, watching the soil turn a darker shade of black, knowing that the roots of your plants were taking a long drink…something about this act was calming and reflective for us. It would be time to just listen to the spray hitting the leaves of the plants and the shuffling of leaves in the trees. We would take pleasure in washing our hands after, the stream turning a dark black as the dirt washed back to the ground with it.

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Over the summer, we have harvested our five variations of lettuce countless times. We filled bags and bags with fragrant bunches of oregano, savoury and cilantro. We snipped the leaves of baby kale and delighted in the pop of pulling up a buried beet. We beamed with pride as we presented family and friends with our little treasures. Our late harvest cucumbers, broccoli, cabbage, potatoes, carrots and zucchini are on the way and each time we have something to bring home to nourish our bodies, my daughter shrieks in delight and my heart soars. Relying on our own labour to feed our family nutritious food has been an incredible adventure, but even more than that – the daily pilgrimage to our garden plot has reoriented and reorganized our lives around delighting in life itself. In a world full of darkness, this is the best fruit our garden can give.

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