All spring and summer I have been tending my garden. I wasn’t initially planning to have a garden, even when Covid shut everything else down and gardening became a wildly popular pastime. I was full enough with regular (and then extended) tax season. That is, until two dear friends independently offered vegetable plants they had grown from seeds and I became convinced.
The prior owners of my house had created a garden patch along the fence, but in the scant couple months since winter, nature had fully (re)claimed the entire territory. So I got to work pulling industrial strength weeds and extracting waist-high grasses by the roots. I did battle with blackberries and ivy. I discovered I am allergic to hops. It was hours and days of sweaty and dirt-clad labor.
I found some surprise gems in the process, namely the two blueberry bushes, the patch of strawberries, and the sage bush. They were buried under all the weeds, being choked-out from all sides, and stunted. The blueberries didn’t fruit this year, I think because I discovered them too late into their growing season. But I watered them and spoke sweetly to them, so I’m sure they’ll come back next year with a delicious vengeance.
Even though I was already busy, I’m glad I took up gardening in the spring. Especially this year. It turned out to be a meditative, stress-relieving activity. It also helped lend some structure to my Covid life which consisted of 100% working, an erratic sleep schedule, and no community activities. Each morning I had to water the garden before the sun got too high, so it helped get me out of bed at a reasonable hour.
I watched my zucchini grow from three tiny leaves into a behemoth with umbrella-sized leaves, popping out a zucchini or three a day. My tomatoes reached skyward and lovely plump and delicious fruits emerged all over their vines. The lettuces, chard, collards and other greens leafed-out into amazing bunches. And the strawberries gave and gave and gave. It was a magical transformation.
And just as magical has been the shift this week as the first hints of fall begin to set in. Some plants are starting to wilt and fade, preparing for a dormant period before next year’s bounty. Others have stopped producing. And it was also time to prune the roses.
This year has been about pruning many things, like all the activities no longer possible during Covid. The first to go was contra dancing, an activity entirely about community connection and involving physical touch with everyone in the dance line. There have been online contra dances, but it’s not the same. Dancing alone or in pair with my partner in our house while the rest of our dance community exists only on a screen just doesn’t hit the same fun button.
I felt a similar shift after George Floyd’s death. I no longer wanted to spend what precious little free time I had on fun and games for the sake of fun and games. I wanted my fun and social time to also cultivate something greater. I wanted to invest that time in making the world a better place, for me and for all the other humans who don’t have the luxury of time away from the woes of the world.
So I began to prune the garden of my social life, cultivating stronger relationships with the people in my circle who are also working to make a difference. Drifting away from people who did not share a similar desire for investment in the personal and societal work. Some folks were happy to support my efforts from a slightly increased distance, cheering me on from where they could move at their own pace. Others felt abandoned and some lashed out.
I miss the people I’m leaving behind. Community and relationships are the most important thing to me. That’s been true for my whole life. Each time I have out-grown some version of me, there were people who no longer fit in the next iteration of my community garden. It’s important to acknowledge the significance of those shifts and grieve the loss of what was.
It’s equally important to continue growing. And like my vegetable garden, I also need to weed it regularly. Uncovering the unhealthy narratives I embody and working to reshape my default thoughts and actions. Cultivating the life I want is a process that is never finished. Just like cultivating the garden I want. Just like cultivating the society I want and cultivating a world for everyone.
We have filled our collective societal garden with layers of unhealthy ways to relate to each other and we have crafted institutions that reinforce those toxic patterns. It’s time to weed our garden. It’s time to prune the parts of our societal systems and traditions that are not serving the vast majority of people.
We prune plants to promote next season’s growth. Tending the garden of our lives is also a long-term strategy. And it is work that will never be finished. We need to begin today cultivating the world we want tomorrow. Watering and weeding along the way.
Information and Inspiration
Jaydra is a human in-process, working to make the world a better place. Sharing thoughts, feelings, and observations about the human experience.