Build me a garden
As I am typing these lines, I am looking out of the window and I am seeing what you are seeing... a beautiful garden with a sea of flowers so varied in number that they can spell out the letters of the alphabet: I see Amaryllis and Begonia. I see Carnations and Daffodils. There is Lavender, Roses, Violets, and even Zinnias.
What sight! What scent!
And I will admit I am a little green with envy (as unfortunately, the garden I am looking at is not my own but belongs to someone who has not one but two green thumbs).
You see, it has long been a dream of mine to have my own garden. To, one day, step outside my home into the outdoors and be greeted by a sea of flowers, fresh herbs, ripe fruits,
and vegetables. All planted, cared for, and harvested with our own hands. (And yes, if you must know, my vision does involve me wearing a white flowy dress while carrying a wicker basket).
Don't worry: I know! I am fully aware that between my romantic notion of a garden and reality lies much work and that this labor needs to be preceded by actual knowledge of how to create and maintain a garden.
It involves learning about things like our climate (at the moment I would say it's seasonal-ish?), our planting zone (can I say 'square'?), our season length (I find it too short!), and frost dates (wait... what?).
Jokes aside: I am aware that if I want to create my own garden and if I am to teach my children anything about gardening, I better know exactly what I am talking about.
But I am willing to get my hands dirty (pun intended), and in hopes that my children will join me and that one day soon, we will find ourselves preparing the soil, sowing seeds, and tending to plants in our backyard.
To us, being able to eat the freshest produce of which we know where it is coming from is one of the main reasons why we want to start a garden. We also like the idea of becoming less dependent and more self-sustaining.
And sure, there are significant health-related advantages of being outdoors, such as the much-needed vitamin D exposure (which is said to increase your calcium levels, vital for your bones and immune system), and the decreased dementia risk.
But if I am honest, my children are the primary catalyst that drives my desire for a garden. My children and their future.
A source of wonder
Children seem to have this immediate, inherent connection to nature from the moment they are born, don't you find? When in nature, children seem to walk around in a constant state of wonderment, noticing every little detail that has long become invisible to adults.
I see evidence of this purity and connection to nature when I observe my children. My kids stop in their tracks to watch fall leaves dance in circles. They marvel at the architectural intricacy of snowflakes. They can sit at our family's pond for hours, counting the fish and watching out for that one small sea snail.
My children will also actively pick up someone else's trash from the beach when they find it, and rightfully get angry when they see cigarette stubs carelessly thrown somewhere on the ground.
I count their awareness of the environment as one of our greatest parental achievements - provided that my husband and I manage to continue to nourish and sustain this consciousness in my children as they become older.
Preserving my children's connectivity with nature is what drives my desire for a garden. If my kids frequently contribute to our garden, to growing something, my hope is that this will deepen their bond with nature; that they will not be able to 'disconnect' from it as they grow older.
If they experience firsthand the amount of work, patience, and dedication it takes to care for the environment around them, they will hopefully continue to never take it for granted and will remain protective of it.
Luckily for my children's generation, there also seems to be a significant general shift in awareness when it comes to human relationships: more and more people seem to realize (possibly fueled by the current pandemic?) that there is an interconnectedness to all life. And that - since all humans are connected with each other - only individual growth can bring about a collective change.
The best world possible
More than two hundred years ago, French Enlightenment writer Voltaire explored this concept in his satirical novel Candide when the eponymous protagonist reminded the reader that "we must cultivate our garden" - one of literature's most famous closing lines.
And while Candide's final words have been subject to many interpretations over time, I always like to think of them to mean the following:
Similar to a garden, our mind requires constant attention and care in the form of nourishing thoughts (seeds) if we aim to evolve, grow, and flourish as a person. And we each must do our part, start with ourselves first, tend to our own garden first.
And if humankind wants to live in what Voltaire cites as 'the best world possible' (a world filled with optimistic sentiments; a phrase coined initially by German polymath Leibnitz), we must contribute on a personal level to achieve collective success.
In regards to our planet, this means striving for a balanced world - an ecology on a global scale.
Doing their part
Next to interconnectedness, there is also the issue of responsibility that drives my desire for a garden.
Although my children are only 10, 8, and 6, my husband and I believe that it is essential to be transparent with them regarding our environment. We feel that they are old enough to hear our worries about the dismaying state of our planet and our concerns about what kind of earth their children (our grandchildren) will one day inherit.
At the same time we feel that, as parents, we must foster hope.
We can show our children that with compassion, courage, and wisdom, they have a higher chance of resolving many environmental issues (the cutting of fossil fuel, the redistribution of wealth, to name a few) more effectively than our generation could thus far.
We must teach our children that there can be an act of goodwill for every act of destruction. That with every small seed we plant, we can give rise to new life.
No matter how young, our children have to be included and made part of this process (that requires every single human to partake). Through small acts of compassion towards our environment, our children will know no different than to treat nature with respect as they grow up.
Let's include our children and encourage them to do their part. A child is never too young to learn how to conserve water, save electricity, or minimize food waste. A child can recycle, and yes, a child can pick up trash that is not their own.
By being proactive parents, we can help our children start their own seeds.
In their backyard.
In their garden of life.
So here we are, at the beginning of our gardening adventure. We know we have much to learn before we are close to our dream garden, but I know it will be worth it. It always is.
For our children and our children's children deserve to live in the 'best world possible.'
BOOK GUIDE: There are many wonderful children's books on gardening, such as Up in the Garden and Down in the Dirt (a follow up to Over and Under the Snow and Over and Under the Pond), or the adorable book If you Plant a Seed (talking about the power of one kind act!).
But the books that our family is currently reading and loving is Joanna Gaines' We are the Gardeners.
Beautifully illustrated by Julianna Swaney this book lovingly teaches children that it takes patience and dedication to grow a garden. That there will be setbacks (too much water!) and surprises (goats!) but that is always worth the work because a garden is “everything”. 🌱