It’s funny the things that make us Stronger. Braver. Wiser.
Take gardening in Australia for instance.
I grew up in a family of incredible gardeners: grandparents, aunts, Mum, brothers. Every last one of them could turn a bare patch of earth into a lush, verdant oasis in no time flat, yielding copious amounts of produce they then turned into healthy meals and jar after jar of glistening preserves.
Until I moved to Australia I assumed I hadn’t inherited that gift, mostly because I’d never actually tried. My gardening exploits consisted of weeding my Mum’s glorious plantings to earn summer vacation spending money, and growing a few wizened herbs at my water-logged, almost-no-sun apartment.
When I arrived in Australia in October, I was exhausted, sick, and utterly run down in body and spirit. Bear and my friends Katy and Ann urged me to garden, believing it would be healing for me. I knew they were probably right, but having never experienced it, I approached the task with some trepidation.
I started small with herbs and a few flowers. It felt good to dig in the earth and get soaked by accident when I forgot to attach the garden hose properly. For awhile the plants were just tiny green specks in a sea of rich black soil and then one day they started growing and all of a sudden I had basil for pesto, cilantro for curries, and mint and lemon balm for iced tea. Success there gave me courage to try some vegetables. I started with tried and true ones like beans, carrots, and cucumbers, then got brave and tried some new things like chicory, asparagus, and melons.
I definitely made some mistakes along the way. I killed a lemon tree by over-watering, lost peas and carrots by planting them in sour potting soil, and some basil by cutting it back too severely. In the past I would’ve taken those losses to heart, feeling like a failure and taking it as proof that I really shouldn’t garden. But not now.
Living on this dear ol’ farm has freed me from much self-doubt and insecurity as I’ve tackled chores and projects I’ve never attempted in my life. Sometimes my failures are a result of busyness or forgetfulness, but mostly they stem from inexperience or a lack of knowledge or simply circumstances beyond my control like weather, disease, or faulty products.
Learning these things through gardening has helped me respond so much better to trauma and mistakes in the rest of my life. Of course I still fuss at myself when I mess up, but I don’t crumple like I used to. I still get frustrated and anxious and afraid, but such dreadful feelings don’t last as long and I can laugh at myself so much easier. The best part is that learning to be kinder to myself has enabled me to be heaps more patient and understanding with others. That makes me smile.
I never imagined these lessons would be the result of sticking a few shriveled seeds into the dirt, but I’m sure glad they are.
Now I’m going to go pick some baby asparagus for an afternoon snack.
What is your favorite area of growth you’ve seen in your life lately?