Five reasons I enjoy working in our garden

About three weeks ago I made good on my longstanding resolution to reclaim the overgrown garden bed at the back of our yard. We moved into our house in 2007 with dreams of planting, growing, eating, and sharing vegetables we had grown ourselves. A blend of factors conspired to stop us from doing so: we had kids, we worked too much, etc. You get the picture.

Something changed not long ago. I had been planning and preparing for my upcoming sabbatical leave. In the process of doing that I realized (with the help of some wise colleagues) that it’s important to begin the changes you wish to make during your sabbatical before it commences. I started asking myself: which of the things I hope to do during my leave can I start doing now? Gardening was one of the answers.

I was also given a copy of Craig Goodwin’s book Year of Plenty. I started reading it and realized: here is someone like me. Craig knew little about gardening before he started, but he started and learned as he went. Somehow, entering another’s story helped allay my own insecurities about gardening.

I’ve been thinking about why I moved forward on this and what I have valued over the last almost month of my experiment. Here, then, are five things I enjoy about working in the garden:

  1. I can contemplate/reflect/think. working the soil provides margin to move physically and yet be still mentally. I find my mind wandering in and out of prayer, thinking about big things in the life of our family, and generally giving thanks for the chance to be outside.
  2. It provides inspiration. I often find some insight or inspiration from working in the garden. For example, as I was weeding recently I reflected on sin. I encountered a particularly belligerent weed, deeply rooted, which reminded me of some of the sins in my own life. Some sins that show little above the surface of our lives can have roots that have grown dreadfully deep.
  3. I can share it with the kids. When I find a cool insect or am ready to plant, I call the kids over and they share the moment with me. They get to experience walking in the turned soil before planting; they get to play with worms. They get to experience things that I imagine a lot of children rarely experience anymore.
  4. I enjoy getting dirty. I often work the garden in bare feet and without work gloves. It’s fun, believe it or not, to get dirty. There’s a novel sensate experience to working in soil that many, if not all, of my ancestors have experienced and that I enjoy experiencing as well.
  5. Its productive yet patience-building. You plant a garden with the plan and desire that it will produce a crop. Yet, there are many factors that are almost totally out of your control. It may be two months from sowing seed to seeing a yield on that initial investment. In the meantime any number of things can go wrong and, regardless of how much you want to, you can’t make a seed grow faster!
I’ll let Englishman Rudyard Kipling have the final word:
“Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God who made him sees
That half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees,
So when your work is finished, you can wash your hands and pray
For the Glory of the Garden that it may not pass away!”