Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: gardening

Lessons Sprouting Out Of Small Gardens. Eight.

FlavoursIt is by no one’s fault in particular that the garden this year is of Lilliputian dimensions and rather drab looking. A far cry from last year’s. But such is life. The road reveals itself as you go and gardens have a way of teaching humbleness. Lesson one.

Like parenting. I said it before. The parallel is striking. The temptation to dismiss the less glamorous results and expect excellence cannot lead to growth of any kind. We’d be stalled in deciphering the meaning of it all. Hiccups give a measure of worthiness. Struggles. Lesson two.

Despite its size and abysmal appearance (tours by request, not that anyone would, and no, there is no fee other than accepting the immutable truth that dandelions are not weeds) a garden is a book to read and learn from. Small print like this year’s in particular.

PagesHaving never read a garden makes no difference. Learning happens as you step outside in early morning and clumps of dry grass become artesian fountains; instead of water, grasshoppers. They waltz in the morning air, so at home in their long graceful jumps you start wondering in whose garden you all are after all… Be grateful, they seem to say, even a small garden can be shared. Lesson three.


TeenyLife is always to celebrate. Dead quiet is scary and sad. Gardens are supposed to buzz, I learn as I crunch my way through towards the tiny pickling cucumbers and miniature beans bushes. Feet want it soft, but the roughness reminds of hot summer air and water too precious to waste on too hungry a lawn to make a difference after all. It’s never about my slight discomfort, visual, physical or otherwise. We’re here to sharpen our sight se we can see the big picture… Sharp sight goes well with softened hearts. Lesson three.

Tiny curled cucumbers befriend leaves that keep them safe from the hot son. What if this garden and its humble harvest was all I had to feed my family? What if? What if no one wasted a bite ever again? What would the ripple effect look like? Humbleness, again. So much to say thank you on any given morning. Lesson four.

Keep on reading gardens. Too small you think? Too dry? They never are… You’ll read in a handful of dirt you pick up, in a leaf that sits in the sun but never burns to a crisp as I would, in the bugs that crawl on the dark green kale… Mysteries. Can you see? Hear? Save time for being where you are, for the one blink that teaches you about how fast everything goes. Lesson five.

still thereBloomAs if the garden is not small enough, the bugs make it smaller by eating the kale leaves. Former green lush tongues spike the air as empty stems, sorry looking and slightly confused. Who’s the thief? The nighttime bug show is on every night. I sleep, they crunch and munch their way through the only leaves that made it to full size. We’re only as alive as the world, visible and invisible. Light and dark, up and down, gifts and plundering… Accept it all, choose to not be bothered but enlightened by learning that you’re given challenges as you go. Lesson six.

Boys burst out in the sun, sleepy faces, bug kisses on arms and legs, hugs… reminders. They are one day older, one day closer to learning that it is all in the choices we make. To feel the sun pinching your cheeks, to smell the summer air, to learn that grasshoppers hear with their tummies and to never take anything for granted… not even a small enough garden. Lesson seven.

Orange sunsnever give upI pick calendula orange suns. They’ll become golden oil for winter days. I pick lemon balm and mint for tea, basil and tarragon. Small and fragrant. Life abounds. If only I remember to see it. Through the lenses of my Lilliputian garden where sunflowers match the theme. Small. Despite all, it grew. Barely reaching knee height, my only sunflower never considered quitting reaching for the sun. Lesson eight. 

Tomato School – Why Gardening Makes Sense

Tomato schoolI tried to grow tomatoes in Vancouver many times. The climate did not agree with my intentions and the tomato project became a ‘perhaps one day…’

Then we moved to Kamloops in late summer, just in time for a bountiful harvest at the farmer’s market. Baskets of tomatoes stared me in the face and gave new meaning to paradise found.

Come spring, we made a first shy attempt at gardening, knowing that summer might take us away to visit family overseas. It did. Summer was to be hot and the garden on its own. Still, memories of the basketfuls of tomatoes plus a tomato seedling gift from our neighbour made temptation too hard to resist and tomatoes were planted; so were potatoes and pumpkins.

Then we left. A month and half later, we returned to a wild garden where the tomato were reigning supreme, full of fruit. Some tomatoes were old and wrinkled, others in their prime. For a tomato grower desperado that was a sight to behold. I saved seeds, lots of them.

This year we evacuated grass from half of the back yard and rolled up our sleeves for a more professional approach.

Seed, water, weed, watch grow, weed, wonder how could that be, weed, and repeat as necessary. Yes, it is work. Regardless, it paid off. We have been eating fresh organic veggies since early spring and the fall harvest promises to be a big one, if it matches even remotely the summer one.

Many early mornings have found me in the garden carefully checking each crop, discovering new growth: tiny beans, tiny squashes, tiny tomatoes and assessing the ever-growing corn stalks, staring into their green tunnels of leaves wrapped around each other in an embrace that will end in late fall when fresh-green becomes husky.

On many of those early morning when the boys were still asleep inside and the city was half asleep still, I thought how much parenting resembles gardening. It is an everyday thing, it must be, or else there’s a risk to crops. Persistence, humbleness and knowing that every day brings new wonders. Realizing that it’s a together thing all along. Never thinking of how much work you put in it because the rewards are overwhelming.

Once awake, the boys descend in the garden, and they do so several throughout the day, and then the feasting starts, straight from the garden: lettuce, peas, carrots, kale and herbs. They wrap them up creating earthy hors d’oeuvres that could not taste better.

Not a leaf is wasted, not a pea green blob left uneaten; excess makes it to the dinner table and that comes with thanks. Many.

A few days ago a mega review of some 340 studies settled the dispute on the value of organic food. They are superior to conventional produce. They taste better, have a higher content of antioxidants and other active compounds we benefit from and if you happen to grow it yourself, you ditch waste for good.

There has never been a more urgent time to get children down and dirty. Growing food with them alongside teaches many of the forgotten lessons of today: that you need to work in order to eat, that you have to keep at it if you want to see results, that you cannot rush or else, and that waste is the enemy.

We need to have them learn all of that. Above all, in the culture of waste and abundance (perhaps we need to redefine abundance?) they need to learn the value of food through the revealing sweetness of every green pea they pick out of a pod they’ve seen grow for days.

They will see live seeking life in the garden, they will wonder at the utter perfection of dragonfly wings and the gentle sway of butterfly dances. They get to ask questions.

Meanwhile, you’re growing food. Answers on a plate, some questions left unanswered because how else would kids take the next step when they are about to discover the world. Inquisitive minds should not be taken for granted.

It takes time, sure it does. But so does parenting. So why not combining and make them waltz along while you’re writing the music in green notes? Worth a try, wouldn’t you agree?…

An Inventory Of An Unruly Garden

As of this morning, it goes like this:

ConfusedOne confused sunflower. Either confused or a rule breaker causing a bit of a flower revolution, with a clear refusal to follow the sun. Imagine that. I’d say it takes guts.

A cluster of orange suns: Calendula flowers, a must if you’re a bee. Not for eating otherwise. I consider flower eating a sin.

CheekyForever-growing yellow, totally unruly beans that are regularly frequented by an army of curious popping-everywhere grasshoppers. The name says it all. As for the severe case of bean unruliness, that is caused by my assumption that you need to plant a lot of beans to get a few good ones. Fake assumption. All the plants survived. This may be the first ever bean jungle recorded in Kamloops.  Note: There is something undeniably fascinating about watching an entire nursery of tiny grasshoppers cheeky mature into the curious poppers they are today. Also not for eating.

Green with yellow pantsA magnificent large yarrow plant reigning over the middle of the backyard and host to green bees which, if you crouch down and wait, you can see hovering over the white clusters with their pants full of orange pollen. That’s richness; mine and theirs.

Many stubborn peppers. They take their time. That is all. Having started them from seeds, I am in awe of how they’ve grown, the very process is mind-boggling. They can afford to be stubborn.

GreenEighteen or so cherry tomato plants. From seeds also, and owners of some envy-causing clusters of tomatoes. The yellow flowers are constantly visited by a fat bumblebee. They are his as much as they are mine. Favourite garden activity: trimming tomatoes. Try it, it’ll surprise you. It tugs at the very need to see accomplishment as you go; hard to resist.

Peas, lots of them. Sweet and round, perfect for garden snacking. Their leaves are utterly fascinating in how they hold water in perfect spheres. Eat your Teflon-based coating, Gortex technology!

Big and yellowA pumpkin patch with big yellow flowers open towards the sky and taunting with the promise of big pumpkins to come, but no baby pumpkin yet. If there’s an underground resistance movement going on in the garden, pumpkins and peppers will be the first arrested. They’re just too obvious.

The world’s best behaved potato plants. ‘Nuff said.

ShyOne squash plant that respects its nature for a change, unlike his fellows. It’s yellow and it has bumps. Beautiful by default like everything else in the garden.

Peek-a-booAmong many others things in the unruly garden surrounded by tall corn and Campanula stalks studded with purple heads, two grass-tumbling, tree-climbing, occasionally muddy boys who eat carrots straight out of the ground, peas straight out of the pod and are capable of some of the wildest water fights. Just like it should be.

Inventory complete. Well, sort of…

The Gardens That Grow

Will it rain? Who knows. It’s all a guessing game, though if you were to ask my dad he’d tell you it’s not. You do know, he’d say. There are signs. Humbly, you know it’s true. There are signs, you have a way to go until you learn them that’s all…

You want the rain because there’s tomatoes and spinach and garden peas that beg for it. Water is water but rain is better water, they seem to say.

Rain brings weeds also, there’s more weeds every day and less time, and you wish for a magic touch that will take them all away and make the garden clean of unwanted green. Someone once said that weeds are good, they would not flourish in bad soil. Take heart, is what they meant…

TenderBringing up children and tender crops. The same. Weeds taking over in both worlds. Screams, stomping of small feet and sulking, fights among boys too wild to know the slow art of diplomacy, and they’ll tell you being diplomatic makes you a loser… ‘cuz they know, they’re in the thick of it. Could all of that go like dandelion fluff, all the weedy dragon-like behavior and you’ll see but smiling faces, mannered boys taking turns speaking and never ever talking with their mouths full or stealing from other’s plates, no talking back… Nope. Sigh? No sigh. Joy. Nothing goes away that comes from within. Acceptance, all the struggle that children put into becoming people. The relentless struggle of tiny seedlings pushing through gritty soil.

You pull weeds, and the air is pierced by the boys’ voices. Shrills, screams, laughter, then the loud dragons again… ‘No, no, no, I am not playing with you…’

Should you step up and see about it? You call their names… Silence.

‘We’re good!’

Magic? Perhaps. They are tough, you can see their heads past the weeds just like you can see the corn rising thin and green and brave, reaching high. There’s no going back now.

Weeds, glassy skies, rags of clouds hanging lose, the world seems lazier than a sloth in the leftover heat of late afternoon, but you don’t stop. You can’t. The earth is dry, feels sandy between your toes. Barefoot boys, skipping past pebbles, they don’t stop… They can’t. It’s the game.

It’s the rhythmicity of it that makes it all exist, grow, and become more. Day after day, small things becoming big deeds, small roots holding small bodies, there’s no going back now. Rhythmic. Every day. Enough to fill the spaces in your body where you felt fear so often. You will again, but fear moves up, like bubbles in a glass that’s always half-full. Fear for them, for the crops to grow. But fear withers like the weeds you pull out of the ground and throw to the side. Fear has small roots. It must…

‘Mom, can we go for a bike ride?’ Little boy rides fast, you run to catch up.

Boy, tag‘Tag me if you can…’

If you can. Ha! What cheekiness… Fast becomes faster. You chase him just to hear the giggle, almost touching his back, then you slow down so the mad dash won’t make boy and bike topple. And they do, but there’s no crying. Grimaces, a look of ‘it hurts’ that you want to go and make better, but there’s no need because… ‘Tag me again!’

Remember the day when big brother stopped crying when he fell. That day… he rubbed the knees, rubbed palms, no need for kiss to make it better. T-shirts wiped all that Band-Aids masked until then. ‘Will these scars stay, Mom? I hope they do…’

Signs of time. Scars are not to cover. Boys are afraid no more, now your fear can go away too.

‘Try to catch me on the way home!’

WildYou run, fast, but wait… there’s berries in the back lane, growing wild, kissed by sunsets and taken care of by invisible hands… time. You gotta remember to bring the boys to the back lane bounty in a couple of weeks. Bounty, growing wild. You know it’ll be sweet and flavourful, and it’ll be like that whether someone pulls the cluster of weeds surrounding its spiky feet or not. It’ll be sweet, whether it rains or not, or despite of it… You know everything grows stronger without perfection to choke it. Children too. Bounty.

You follow the boy and his wild head of hair, palms of sunset glowing light caressing every strand and making them into golden streams. You’re at peace, not worried of rains and weeds and magic touches that can make everything perfect.

Magic is when you let go of the fear that you have to have it perfect so they’ll turn right. Magic is when you finally understand that they’ll still need the hug to make it better, but not for scraped knees. For egos that grow too soon, for life so loud it makes your heart pound and for bruises that come with it.

HarvestDay’s over. You pick tender leaves of lettuce, green and red, herbs… The shimmering sunset light is about to plunge behind the horizon. Tomorrow’s roots.




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