Solace in Seedlings

Christine Brown

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How to make sense of this?

How to find solace in my fear?

The answer came unexpectedly in the early days of lockdown. A thought emerged and kept persisting, “grow a garden,” it said.

At first quietly, but then GROW a GARDEN.

Me? My family? Grow our own food?

I bought some seeds in March and we placed them in cardboard tubes in dirt in plastic shoeboxes in the dining room. We, which included my husband and I along with our two daughters, suddenly home from college to finish their spring semesters, watered them faithfully, and then watched wondrously as they began to sprout—cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini. During those dark days of late March and early April, each member of the family found their way to wander over during Zoom breaks and gaze at those little sprouts at some point of the day. It gave us hope and much needed respite from what we could no longer do.

While we had grown flowers before and often had a potted herb here and there, we were novices when it came to vegetable gardens. There were so many things to learn. We had to dig up a garden space and put up fencing to keep out deer and rabbits. We had to figure out how to make a gate that would let us in while keeping small woodland creatures out. It was often exhausting and required new skills, but it also absorbed our interest and kept us from thinking too much about all the things we were missing---my oldest daughter’s college graduation, holidays with others, visiting family and friends, restaurants.

As spring turned to summer, we managed to get those seedlings into the ground, and they took off. We became part of the tribe that offers random neighbors a zucchini whether they wanted it or not. We learned numerous ways to use eggplant and cucumbers for all our meals. We learned that pumpkins would overtake as much space as they wanted and there was little you could do to stop them. We watched nervously during the severe summer storms that swept across our region and ravaged our neighborhoods and worried they would damage our project. Those storms also served as uncomfortable reminders of the climate changes that are underway and made me fearful not only for the virus which kept us home so much, but of future events related to environmental change.

You know what else I learned? I learned that I can be resilient in the face of hardship; that the earth sustains us in a way that I knew but never internalized and truly knew. I learned the quiet beauty of looking over the garden in the morning from my bedroom window. I learned to love the nightly ritual of watering and pulling weeds and looking forward to what would ripen next. I learned a sense of peacefulness that comes from spending so much time outside again. I learned anew that there is beauty in the simple work of putting seeds in the earth, watching them grow, and using their produce to create nourishment for me and my family.

This year, with its heartbreak and many challenges is also the year I found hope in the natural world around me.

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