We give our gardens thought, toil, plants, mulches, water and fertilizers.
In turn, our gardens give us color (both floral and winged), sanctuary
and answers. The exchange, however, is by no means even.
Gardens return far more than we give them.
That dividend is not just the bountiful products of photosynthesis.
Nor is it fully accounted for by the value added to our homesteads.
Its measure is not monetary. Our gardens keep us human. Our
ancestors, both sanguineal and evolutionary, lived and died surrounded
by nature. Our brains enlarged and our posture became erect as we
interacted with plants, animals and the rest of that primordial garden.
Some say our survival no longer depends on knowledge or an awareness of
nature. The older I grow and the more I see, inform me otherwise.
Humans living away from nature, or its modern surrogate, the garden, have
turned into creatures who I fear.
Theirs are the shadows that haunt a darkened alley. They are the
ones who wantonly discharge firearms into the bedrooms of children.
They will kill a human being to steal a beer.
If only they had seen a plant emerge from a seed or nurtured a vine until
it could feed them. The sweet exhaustion of working dark and fragrant
soil and taking pride in the subsequent harvest builds character and provides
I have met in the so-called Third World men whose annual monetary income
could not entertain a brat in a mall for one hour. They are not poor!
They are able to feed their family and generously share what they have
with strangers, they are neither bored nor boring, they know so much and
have a great sense of humor. In spite of their apparent poverty,
I have never felt threatened while in the company of peasants or campesinos.
I am jealous of their simplicity, but have grown too soft to live among
them. I admire their honesty and curiosity and humanity. As
sons of the earth, they could be no less.
A child who learns how to grow a garden and appreciates its lessons and
delights will never become a delinquent. We are tied to nature and
must re-establish those bonds for each generation. Though I am ignorant
of the precise neural mechanisms involved, I am so very certain that we
retain our humanness only if we work and play in gardens, either natural
In this season of giving and receiving, please reflect on the many gifts
we gain from our gardens. Those humanizing presents are priceless.
Merry Christmas and Happy Planting!