My Garden is My Teacher

Eleanor Deckert
My Garden is My Teacher

Green! Through the monochromatic months of wintertime, my eyes get so hungry for green!

Driving up and down the valley, and even as far as the coast, up over the mountains and down into the central interior, my eyes drink in the various hues, the new buds, the tufted catkins, the pastel blossoms. Meanwhile, low to the ground, the hardy bulbs offer brightly coloured crocus, hyacinths, daffodils, tulips, and narcissus. Each kind of tree and bush and grass and flower, and each stage of development, and the light of different times of day offer differing greens.

O the wealth! O the abundance! O the gladness! O how quickly it will all change into the deeper summertime green of widely spreading leaves soaking in the sunshine.

Home again, I stroll through the garden, all mulched and bare, all potential, all unready for the seeds in the springtime chill.

But look! The rhubarb is bulging and reaching and unwrapping those elephant-ear leaves. The green onions and chives renew their flavour-filled spears. There is evidence of life along each branch of the raspberry and blackberry canes.

On the windowsill my hopeful husband has prepared little pots for squash, zucchini and cucumber seeds. Yes! Here they come! More green! More life!

My sense of wonder never grows weary.

I remember when we were homeschooling, I called my four children to observe an experiment. One filled a bowl with soil. One held a flashlight. One slowly trickled water into the bowl. The youngest sat on the kitchen counter and held the bowl steady.

“What are we doing?” the oldest one asked.

“I'm trying to make a strawberry,” I earnestly answered, “or maybe an onion.”

Of course I was not successful, but the point I was trying to make was this: “How is it possible that these same three ingredients make such a variety of plants?” Garlic and mint grow side-by-side... both are made of soil, water, light... Amazing!

My garden has taught me other lessons about my own character too:

Breaking off only the top of the weed does no good, it is essential to dig out the root. (I cannot put on a false face, I need to go deeper inside myself to root out character faults.)

Mulch works great, depriving the weeds of light. (If I don't give my bad habits the environment they need to grow, they will weaken and fade away.)

Some plants are more fruitful if they are trimmed back. (Some aspects of my physical health are improved if I cut out non-essentials.)

Some plants send out too many suckers, which need to be removed. (I am more efficient if I do not allow distractions while I work.)

Some plants, like peas and beans, need support. (I need to be aware of times when I need encouragement and not try to do everything myself.)

Although September is very far away, I plant the seed believing that the harvest will come. (When I begin a project, there might be a long stretch of time before it is complete, but I believe it will be worth the effort.)

Basically, the garden cannot deceive or be fake in any way. If plants cannot hide their life story, then why do I think that I can wear a mask, bend the truth, speak a false message, without eventually being found out?

Each plant boldly proclaims, “I am what I am.”

Perhaps I also am of value, need to seek my own healthy environment, build with simple, basic ingredients, bear fruit that only I can produce. Perhaps my garden is a kind of mirror or map. Perhaps the real “Me” will unfold with as much beauty as these tiny green sprouts.

Long before I chose the 'Back-to-the-Land' lifestyle, I wrote this quote in my notebook. I was already curious to explore the lessons that can be found while working in the garden:

“My garden is an honest place. Every tree and every vine are incapable of concealment, and tell after two or three months exactly what sort of treatment they have had. The sower may mistake and sow his peas crookedly. The peas make no mistake but come up and show his line.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson