Monday, May 3, 2021

The Joy of Spring Gardening

Chives, arugula, radishes, kale, cilantro, and asparagus. The spring garden is beginning to produce, but that "produce" isn't just the vegetables my wife and I eat, even though our fresh food is a substantial part of what we gain.

The first positive gain each year from our garden is just getting outside into the fresh air and open sky. After a long year inside, being outside is uplifting, and physical tasks in that fresh air are invigorating to the system even when there is some fatigue. Even when "getting outside" means being in our mini-greenhouse, there is still the smell of fresh soil, the warmer temperatures, and the promise of what is to come at a later date outside.

Every spring brings for me a sense of renewal--and it's not symbolic but actual. The earth thaws and can be worked. The soil is ready for planting and watering. The physical activity and the participation in the spring cycle of the seasons is like jumping on a streetcar. We are moved along with the plants; we are uplifted, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. By engaging in the process of planting and nurturing the seedlings, we enliven within ourselves that same dynamism that drives the plants from the seed--stem and leaves to the sky, roots deep into the soil. As poet Dylan Thomas wrote: "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower / Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees / Is my destroyer." Beyond and deeper than mind and intellect, we are one with nature.

We cannot minimize the simple act of working the earth, though. And it is work, getting our hands dirty in order to get the soil ready for a new season. There is an inertia to the cold, dark, sleeping months of winter that working in the garden can dissipate. For every sore muscle and blister, there is the inspiration of the seeds and of sap uprising that calls us to get the job done, to not miss the planting time, and once the seed is in the ground and the garden plot watered, I find it impossible to not lean on the rake and admire the beauty of sun warming the soil, the joy of handing the job over to nature, to sun and rain and soil.

The garden can be a mandala, circles within circles, cycles within cycles. To attune ourselves to the grammar of our garden is to learn the language of nature, to discover within the simple syntax of the garden the cosmic song of life. We have to be receptive, though, and to pay attention. If we give ourselves to our garden, our garden will give us back ourselves. We are the sun and rain and earth and wind--and the underlying unity from which all the elements arise. I am never alone in the garden but share a common bond, breathe the common air, knowing in my bones that there is nothing common about the miracle of spring and the sweet fragrance of peach blossoms blowing across the awakened earth. We are bees in flight. Let us do our work, according to our true nature; let us find the nectar in the flower and celebrate our time on this beautiful earth.


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