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The Spirit of Gardening

Gardens nourish the soul as well as the body.

Happy in the GardenI like gardening – it’s a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself. — Alice Sebold

Your practical and down-to-earth Planet Natural blogger is usually all about the work of gardening, the planning, the digging, the weeding. But this time of year, when the days are short and outdoor garden activities (but not the indoor) have all but come to an end, we find that our garden continues to nurture us even as we nurtured it during the growing season.

The physical rewards of gardening — the work that makes us healthy and strong, the fruits and vegetables produced and the nourishment gained from it — are a wonderful reason to keep a little garden patch. But we can’t deny the spiritual benefits that gardening gives us. Gardening, like family and gainful work, keeps us whole.

It’s occurred to us that we’re seldom more content, seldom more at peace, as when we’re working in the garden. The quote above from novelist Alice Sebold — she wrote the best-selling novel of tragedy and hope The Lovely Bones (it also became a movie) — has always spoken to us. When the demands of modern life threaten to overwhelm us, we can put them aside when we go to work in the garden. And when we do, we learn about ourselves. It’s not as if our problems go away. They just fall into perspective.

In a world of diminishing expectations where hope often seems in short supply, the garden fairly bursts with promise and expectation. No matter your beliefs or direction, you discover that growing is an act of faith; that taking the tiniest seed and placing it in the best possible soil, caring for it as it grows, and marveling at the changes that come over it, gives us great reward while standing as a poetic symbol of transformation. In that, it’s as satisfying as raising children while watching them grow out of our care and become themselves.

In the weeks on either side of the solstice, when holidays of thanksgiving and birth and survival from various religions converge and themes of peace and brotherhood are once again in the air, we think of the joy our garden gives us.

Our tiny plot is a place where hope and expectation are planted and where hope and expectation are rewarded if nurtured by hard work and informed techniques. It’s a symbol of our care and love for our families and neighbors as we grow organically and do the least harm to the earth as we can. It captures our heritage as we remember our grandparents and all the other gardeners that instilled the love of doing it. It’s a place that reflects our personality and character, where we bring order to the world and find sustenance in the chaotic tangle of living things. It’s truly the place we’re at one with nature.

Now that the daylight hours have begun to grow again, slowly but persistently, we anticipate the green season to come. Sometimes on a cold and clear night, we’ll go out and stand in our snow-covered garden under what seems a million stars and remember the joy we’ve had there. In doing so, we can feel the joys to come. In those moments, our resolve, whatever that may be, seems to soar. And once again, we lose ourselves only to find ourselves. Here’s our wish that we all are happy with what we find, what we learn in our gardens.

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