“Then there are those who plant. They endure storms and all the vicissitudes of the seasons, and they rarely rest.” Paul Coelho

Sitting at my makeshift desk in the dining room, I learn that the shelter-in-place order for Austin is a sure thing. I immediately remember the tomato plants in the back of my minivan.

There are only a few people at the community garden when I arrive. We uncharacteristically ignore each other, mindful of our uncertain covid-19 status.

I carry the tray of tomato plants, carrot seed packages tucked between the containers, along freshly wood-chipped paths separating the plots. The sun feels like summer, but the showy neon green of spring is everywhere.

Summer will have its turn soon enough.

My plot needs more work than I remember. It will take several hours rather than the thirty minutes I had planned. On second thought, I am thankful for the project.

I am not predisposed to sheltering-in-place.

In-place sounds impossible. I imagine pre-dawn escapes to the trail to slow my breathing.

My friend Terri says that an earnest gardening effort reflects a certain level of mental stability because of the enormous patience and delayed gratification required.

It’s always more sacrifice than expected at the onset.

She believes that a garden reminds us of life’s relentless forward momentum.

A practice of giving without guarantees.

I think about her words as I pull weeds, pour the orange oil and molasses mixture on fire ant mounds, and harvest the last of my red chard and kale to make room for the tomato plants.

I water the tomatoes carefully. It is stressful to be planted.

Be well world.


A Life Is Like A Garden


Leonard Nimoy’s final Twitter posting last week read, “A life is like a garden, perfect moments can be had, but not preserved, except in memory.”

This morning I thought about his tweet as I pulled weeds in the cold mist, feeling the freezing mud soak through my gloves. To me it sounds like a summary statement of eighty-three years of living rather than instructions on how to live.

The day’s harvest of beets, kale, and brussels sprouts, the hardy show-offs of the winter garden, lay on my cement bench. The warm decay from the compost pile rose up, making itself visible in the light drizzle. The chickens, more vocal than usual, were complaining that they’re ready for spring.

A perfect moment.

A garden is at peace with time’s passage. Winter vegetables will bolt and wither as gardeners dream of summer tomatoes, again and again. Each cycle is unique, the victories and the disappointments, and the hard work in between.  Life will push through the soil whether a garden is tended to, or not.

Something will grow.

To plant, or not.

To cultivate, or not.

To look for and embrace those perfect moments, or not.

Something will grow.


Back to the Garden

photo by Elizabeth Breston

When I’m angry, I clean.  When I’m weary, I water.  I have been standing in my garden with a hose a lot this week, watching for the neon spring green of a leaf or the flash of a bloom to emerge.  A reminder that life goes on.

My friend Terri believes that a good gardening effort, regardless of the outcome, reflects a certain level of mental stability.

She says a garden requires enormous patience and more sacrifice than expected at the onset.  It starts out all seedlings, sunshine and anticipation and then come the bugs, blight and the Texas heat.  A garden teaches the lesson of giving without guarantees.

Unconditional love of the plant kind.  A good place to practice.

I’m not sure what my gardens say about my mental health but I know I go into the garden to find equilibrium through working with my hands.  In a world that makes it too easy to retreat into my head, a garden invites me into my body.  I can feel my energy enliven my senses and limbs, bringing my awareness back to the earth and into the moment.

A recent episode of Nature, “What Plants Talk About,” proposes that plants demonstrate a level of consciousness similar to behaviors attributed to the animal kingdom including altruism and family recognition.

I hear the same from Nate, the arborist working with us to save our 250-year-old Post Oak.  He loves trees and sees them as sentient beings.  Perhaps plants are not so different from us – just quieter.  To commune with their rhythm and recognize our similarities we have to slow down.  We have to participate.

This is how I come to find myself in the garden with my hose in hand.  It is not to retreat from life but to renew my belief in living.  To remind myself of the seasons and cycles.  To remember how to nurture and tend to the things that bring meaning and hope.

“..when man was put into the Garden of Eden, he was put there with the idea that he should work the land; and this proves that man was not born to be idle.”  Voltaire, Candide