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The Gifts of Gardens

We give our gardens thought, toil, plants, mulches, water and fertilizers. In turn, our gardens give us color (both floral and winged), nourishment, 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. Some humans living away from nature, or its modern surrogate, the garden, have turned into creatures that 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 would commit murder 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 hope.

Gardening makes us forward-thinking and trains us to defer gratification. It shifts our time-preference so we place greater value on future goods than on equivalent present goods. Impulsivity, delinquency and criminality are far more prevalent in those who are unable or unwilling to defer gratification. Requiring immediate rewards is the root of much evil.

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 or man-made.

The botanical images on this site were produced by The Photon Hunt.

Thank you for visiting!,
Copyright at Common Law by Manuel Flores