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Gardening: A Practice of Patience, a Place of Connection

Published:
June 10, 2024
May 20, 2024
Read this reflective narrative on finding a special place of connection through gardening as a hobby.

A reflective narrative by Christina Baker.

For Christina, her garden is more than a space to grow things — it’s a place of connection. Through this hobby, she’s formed deeper relationships with the earth and those around her, and she’s learned how to tap into peace and slowness. Here’s why she recommends everyone give gardening a try.

I grew up the daughter of gardeners (houseplants and flowers for Mom, tomatoes and carrots for Dad), but it wasn’t until I reached young adulthood that I became interested in growing things myself. I’ve been surprised to find that I’m not alone — many of my friends share my desire to make our spaces a little bit greener and more alive. And as I’ve gardened, I’ve begun to understand why. The peace I find in the garden is something I don’t experience anywhere else, and then there are the flowers, the food, and the sense of connectedness gardening brings. My time in the garden has drawn me closer to the earth, to my community, and to God. 

There is something soothing about being close to the ground, surrounded by green, hands in contact with dirt, rocks, and plants. Study after study has found that simply being around plants reduces stress. I think actually caring for the plants takes the benefits to another level, however. The pace of work is different in the garden. Despite the speed with which seedlings and weeds shoot up in the spring, it still takes months for a pepper or a pumpkin to mature. Most of the time, there is no hurry. Nothing in the garden dings or flashes lights at me to get my attention; if I am going to notice the aphids — or the butterfly cocoon — I have to slow down and look. And I have found that taking the time to look is almost always rewarded. The flowers on overgrown cilantro are tiny white wonders. The camouflage employed by the tomato hornworm is spectacular. 

In this slowness, there is a calm that I don’t find anywhere else. It’s like sitting in a quiet church, but cozier. It’s like knitting in a comfy chair, but more alive and inspiring. I feel connected to the world and its Creator when I’m caring for my small bit of garden. The relative quiet, especially if I leave my phone and earbuds inside, makes it easier for me to connect to my own heart as well, and thoughts and ideas bubble up and surprise me. The garden is where I’m most likely to suddenly stumble upon a few lines for a new poem or story.

Despite its small size, my backyard garden is a place of abundance. A few flowers gone to seed last year become a riot of color this year. The kumquat tree consistently produces enough fruit for our whole neighborhood. With a little tending, one bean seed, the size of my pinky nail, can grow us several pounds of beautiful purple-speckled green beans. This abundance, in turn, has frequently led me to community.

Several of my close friends also have thriving gardens, and we frequently trade our surpluses: plants that have sprouted a little too well in the spring and over-abundant harvests of tomatoes, pumpkins, green beans, or kumquats in the fall. We help each other with garden work, share knowledge, and joke about who is most scrupulous about their compost pile.

“There are no strangers in the gardening world: we are all trying to care for our spaces together.”

Besides deepening my already existing friendships, the common language and constant challenges of gardening have provided a space for connection with strangers as well. Mrs. T. lives around the corner from us and is a Master Gardener. As soon as she realized I was starting gardens, she was happy to share advice. When I put in a small flower-and-herb bed around our mailbox, elderly neighbors would pause on their walks to comment, ask questions, and give suggestions. Visiting a farmer’s market has taken on a whole new dimension — I want to know what varieties of vegetables they are having success growing and how they avoid the dreaded vine borers. Most small farmers aren’t trying to protect trade secrets, so they are often happy to share their discoveries. There are no strangers in the gardening world: we are all trying to care for our spaces together.

My own garden didn’t start big — there were years of herbs on the apartment patio and four-by-four vegetable plots in rental yards, designed to go quickly back to grass after we moved. Yet in all our different living spaces, gardening has been both a comfort and an exciting challenge for me.

With its built-in busy seasons and fallow seasons, gardening has taught me not to live life at full speed, but to take time to rest and reflect. It has led me to honest, healthy work, good food, generous community, and a peaceful retreat from an all-too-busy world. Whether you start with a houseplant, a community garden plot, or a space in your (or a friend’s!) backyard, I invite you to give gardening a try, and add a little more green to your world.

“There are no strangers in the gardening world: we are all trying to care for our spaces together.”

Creators:
Christina Baker
Published:
June 10, 2024
May 20, 2024
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