Gardening Connections

Everything hurts. I’m not talking surface level pain but rather deep embedded agony in rear-end muscles I didn’t even know existed. My gluteus maximus pulsates. My wrists are tender. My nail beds stained a deep brown. My lower back shot. This can only mean one thing. The black thumb in me is summoning my inner Martha Stewart in hopes of a bountiful flower and vegetable garden.

I admire my freshly tilled garden that will soon be filled with weeds. Summer travel, a full-time job, and little league baseball a distraction from giving this plot the attention it deserves. Instead, this land relies on northern Wisconsin weather patterns, lackluster weeding, a dabble of fertilizer, and the occasional watering. My inability to produce a bountiful harvest as predictable as the moon cycle.  

Come winter, I will find myself dreaming big. Plotting, planning, and scheming a blend of hardy perennials, colorful annuals, and fresh picked produce to share with friends and family. Seeds will be purchased. Land tilled. The cycle continues.

Why keep doing it? A summer CSA, local Farmer’s Markets, and grocery store aisles provide plenty of options to feed my family while my harvest provides intermittent snacking and a few side dishes at best. The pain-to-equity ration hardly makes sense economically. Yet, my life without gardening would be as logical as northern Wisconsin without winters. Sure, it’d be easier. But it wouldn’t make sense.

It honestly doesn’t matter if I continue to come up short. Because unlike the constant chatter of do more and be more, gardening is about connection. It is an opportunity to center myself. To reflect on summers growing up where I’d follow my dad as he carefully planted corn, beans, and peas in perfect rows. Where we would wander the garden all summer long, awaiting the moment he would finally give me the nod – a signal that the sugar snap peas were ready to be picked. A reminder that great things come from small beginnings. How we reap what we sow. And dozens of other garden cliches we know all too well – partially because in our heart we know while cheesy they are packed with truth.

Our obsession with perfection is at times debilitating. This all or nothing notion that somehow if you don’t show up and give 150% for every aspect of your life, you are a failure. My connection to gardening a stark contrast to the endless prosperity gospel our nation was built on. A contrast I continue to lean-in on more as I grow older.

A handful of sugar snap peas. A bundle of irregular sized garlic bulbs. A bowl of bruschetta. A basket of apples. A casserole dish of green beans. A single seared cauliflower. A base of sunflowers. Each harvest, a reminder of my roots. Where I’ve been and where I’m going. A bounty that’s hard to measure but would certainly be missed.  

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