The First Garden Day

Sharon April 7th, 2008

I’m not real zen.  That is, I am not the sort of person who finds it easy to simply be in the moment.  Ok, I’m really awful at it.  Which is one of the reasons I enjoy reading Colin over at NoImpactMan so much - there’s a mindfulness that comes across in his posts that you simply will not find in mine. 

I’m very good at multitasking, and am often contemplating my next post or something I should be writing while I’m simultaneously sorting laundry and helping Isaiah write his name.  And while that ability makes parts of my life more manageable, I have a very hard time getting to a place where my mind and body are doing the same thing at once.  It is a useful skill when it is wanted - but it doesn’t have an off button.  Sometimes all that stuff, all that thinking about the next thing and the next gets tiresome, and I wouldn’t mind if it would simply get a little quieter in my brain.  I’m told meditation techinques could help me with this - and it is something that’s on the 50,000 item list of “things to do when I get a chance.” 

Today, however, I am reminded of why all this noise in my brain does not drive me stark raving mad.  I had almost forgotten, in the months since I touched dirt out in its natural habitat, what it is like to go into the garden.  And then I got to do it. 

Today it was *finally* warm enough and dry enough to plant out in the garden - pansies along the side of the house, peas, mustards, tatsoi, mache and spinach in the main garden.  And so we trooped out, the three boys and I (Eli was at school, Daddy off teaching astronomy) with our respective tools (Asher had a spoon and bucket, Simon a trowel, Isaiah a small garden claw (not sharp), me my big pointy serious one), our seeds, inoculant for the peas, greensand and kelpmeal to feed the plants.  It was rather a production, and we made a proper bit of pomp and circumstance about this first venture. 

And then we were out there, and getting dirt under our nails (and in our hair in Asher’s case).  And all of a sudden, things went quiet.  I don’t mean the children were quiet - they weren’t.  We discussed earthworms and why plants need minerals and what molecules are.  They were doodling about and being their usual noisy selves.  But instead of spending the time working in my head on an essay about what to do with your appliances once you don’t need them anymore, I just gardened.  I just touched and smelled, put my hands into the soil, and loosened it.  I was just there.  I could hear myself again in the quiet.  And I remembered - I garden for food, but also, I garden because it is the best way into myself that I know of.

In springtime, we say a lot of schechechayanu.  This is the Jewish blessing for things you haven’t done in a long time, as they come around in cycles again.  We say the blessing at each holiday and special occasion, when we first seen the trees bloom and the birds return.  And the kids and I said one today, for the planting of the first seeds of our season. For me, it was a moment of gratitude, as the season of raucous, noisy life begins again - and the season of quiet starts too.


11 Responses to “The First Garden Day”

  1. Anonon 07 Apr 2008 at 3:45 pm

    Nice post, Sharon.


  2. Tina Ughrinon 07 Apr 2008 at 3:54 pm

    The weather this spring has been crazy (even by Ohio standards), but today with a wicked cold and too many things on my To Do list, I simply hung laundry in the warm loving sun. It was glorious and calm.

    Breathing deep in Ohio,


  3. homebrewlibrarianon 07 Apr 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Thanks for a contemplative post. My sister with her brood of four lives multitasking every moment of every day so I understand where your head can be.

    While not nearly so mentally taxed, I have found that being in touch with dirt and plants brings about a mindfulness that I didn’t know could exist. Hours can go by and I hardly notice them. Something about the act of encouraging plants to grow gets me all misty eyed.

    In a small way, I got a bit of that yesterday when I finally some seeds started. Only four each of 12 different things and standing in my kitchen with a bag of (locally produced!) potting mix and a tarp on the floor. I can’t believe how much I miss dirt under my nails! Winter isn’t over here in Alaska yet - we had five inches of snow on Saturday and Sunday - and I’m itching to get out and start working on building raised beds. But I plan to get more seeds started this week!

    I needed centering again. Thanks!

    Kerri in AK

  4. Ven. Wulingon 07 Apr 2008 at 5:25 pm

    The Buddha taught 84,000 (i.e., innumerable) methods. One of them might well have been ‘Absorption in Gardening.’ I know many people who practice it. :-)

    What you did reminds me of a simple meditation, (doable when gardening ;-). First we take in happiness for ourselves. But we keep that happiness for the briefest of moments, and then we turn around and give it to all beings. So the happiness we create, we immediately share with everyone. The in-breath creates some tension as our diaphragm pulls air into our lungs on our thought of personal happiness. The out-breath releases the tension as we release the happiness with the thought that it will benefit all beings.

    Sorry if I’m off subject, but it’s a beautiful autumn morning here and my one lone poetic gene must have bubbled to the surface.

    Ven. in Australia

  5. nicoleon 07 Apr 2008 at 9:59 pm

    Thank you for this lovely meditation Sharon. It’s just how I feel when I’m in the garden - peace and stillness and that beautiful intensity of sensations that can finally get through the clutter.

    And thank you Ven. in Australia for your beautiful meditation.


  6. tkon 07 Apr 2008 at 10:45 pm

    thank you.

    will you post your schechechayanu?

  7. Martha1955on 08 Apr 2008 at 2:35 am

    Hi Sharon, thank you for reminding me of the feeling of early spring gardening. Did you notice that you got a mention in the comments of Mark Bitten’s blog today? It was nice, in reference to the Paul Krugman column about grain prices.

  8. Martha1955on 08 Apr 2008 at 2:35 am

    I mean Bittman’s blog Bitten.

  9. K1on 08 Apr 2008 at 3:47 am

    Thanks for the lovely post - it really struck a chord with me, and made me aware of how little time I’ve actually spent in the garden this summer (down here in NZ, we’re heading into winter, of course) because my head has been too full with work and my to-do list too long. My favourite activity in the garden is weeding - I can sit there for ages, just weeding and, sometimes, thinking.

    Fortunately I can continue this in winter, we have no snow where I am, just rain…. and I’m largely waterproof!

  10. Anion 08 Apr 2008 at 4:04 pm

    well……I can only dream still….. we are weeks away from even seeing the ground up here- still many feet of snow to melt(sigh)- I did however get to hang some clothes on the line this weekend- had to fold them over the line as the snow depth was too high for all but undies and socks to hang correctly but still- it was nice…….

  11. knit2dye4on 08 Apr 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Lucky you! I still have a while before I can garden. Here in Alaska, we are going through this frozen icy wasteland alternating with muddy boggy bootsucking mess. It will still be a while before we want to touch our dirt. (unless you count my 4 year old, who considers standing in mud up to the top of his breakup boots a real treat).


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