As a contributor to Womenz Straight Talk Magazine, I was recently asked to do a piece on gardening. And as a digging-in-the-dirt girl, I wanted to share a concept that has lived in my heart for a long time. After all, Straight Talk is just that. More than tutorial or instructional, it’s a place to share information, creativity, ideals, and feelings in a forum of trust and nurturing. Gardening brings me close to God and helps to clear my mind of the veritable cacophony swirling daily through my entire being, and in the process, the clarity yields a peace within, fusing strength and resolve into my soul which helps me to be the best I can be as a human.
Our relationships with flowers and outdoor vegetation can be complex and varied, some of us entrenched in the daily nurturing and tending required to coax glorious blossoms from seedlings which is a thrill to experience.
Then there’s the downside. The frustrating devastation of blight and disease, the ruination of plants consumed by garden vermin, accompanied by screaming vows never to dig in the dirt again. Some of us keep plugging on, committed to the earth’s promise of reward for our sweat and determination as we try to figure out the safest way to combat the enemy. Some of us give up. How many relationships do we sweat out in life?
For me, gardening evokes comparisons to humanity, our sensibilities prejudiced towards our favorite perennials and annuals, our memories tied to scents that take us back to special occasions, our willingness to oblige garden order or nurturing healthy connections to people or not, a choice. Communication with the soil is a delicate dance of give and take, feeding, and cutting back or deadheading to reveal purpose and balance in artful alliance with plants and flowers. The skill to maintain stable liaisons in life with others is often a challenge as well, fraught with the unpredictable, as with gardening, the unforeseen can wreck irreparable damage.
Then there’s the lingering love-hate relationships fostered by efforts that either succeed or sometimes fail, much like relationships with our human counterparts. When a plant or shrub succumbs in my garden, at first, I tend to blame them for not being strong enough to survive. At times, it makes me so upset, I can’t stand it because it costs money to bring them to my flower beds. How dare they die? And then, I have to look at myself and do an analysis to figure out what went wrong and how could I have been a better nurturer to that plant that I chose to have a relationship with? It’s easiest to play the blame game. Do we continue in relationships doomed to failure or do we cut them away to salvage ourselves from toxicity that can weaken and derail us?
The countless varieties of garden specimens available for inclusion in various global planting zones and gardens can be compared to the vast number of cultural identities throughout the world, many unheralded ethnicities struggling for a voice or prominent placement in a tableau that all but ignores them because of pessimism and ignorance. Why take a chance on the unknown when the familiar brings such satisfaction? Planting something I know nothing about is both scary and exciting at the same time for me. Opening up to new ideologies and cultural exchange can feel the same. Do we reach out to learn what we can about those outside our inner circle or do we strive to embrace diversity, unveiling the unknown to reveal something new and exciting?
The garden is a perfect metaphor for life. It brings me to my knees in earnest as I implore the earth to reward me with a bountiful harvest. Alas, nothing is perfect in our imperfect world, neither when it comes to gardening or our own humanity. When given the choice, do we nurture or not, do we walk away, or do we stay the course? Do we challenge ourselves or do we remain complacent? Do we reach out to other humans in an exchange of goodwill, or do we distance ourselves in fear of the unknown? I’ll never be perfect but for me, the answer is one life, one chance to be the change. And if you’re not a gardener, maybe a houseplant can be a source of renewed connection to life and the world around you.