Gardening is Magic

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One afternoon last spring, I updated my facebook status to read, “Planting seeds is the greatest act of faith I know.” The words just kind of flew from my fingertips. It wasn’t a thought I had consciously nurtured for any length of time. It just felt true to my experience. It really seems magical how you put these teeny tiny things in the ground and they grow to be bigger, in some cases enormous, things with just a little sunshine, water, and time. The element of time is the most elusive, and possibly most important, ingredient in this equation.

When I was a kid in Hebrew school, I heard a story that put it in perspective. “An old man in ancient Israel was planting a fig tree, when a Roman general happened to pass by. The general says to the man, ‘Don’t you realize it will take twenty years before that tree will grow enough to give fruit, and you will be long dead by then?’ The old man responded, ‘When I was a small child, I could eat fruit because those who came before me had planted trees. Am I not obliged to do the same for the next generation?'”

I didn’t realize until just now the impact that story had on me. But, I like to think I honor its spirit both in my own work in the garden and by teaching my kids to appreciate the power of such actions. When we work the land, we are working for ourselves and for those who come after us.

Yesterday Cora and I planted some spring-flowering bulbs. She did an incredible job following each step of the process and even developed her own system for evenly distributing the different varieties among the containers. Then she went to the rain barrel and filled her watering can. I nearly melted into the ground. It reminded me how capable three-year olds can be when given a chance to do something real and meaningful. It’s no wonder there are so many Montessori schools with gardens.

Together, we put the containers in the shed and covered them with a burlap blanket. She knows they will spend the winter there, I’m just not sure she knows what will happen next. That’s where the wonder, and magic, come in.

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