My boys love to garden! They proudly gather up their gardening tools (the real thing, but designed to fit a child’s hand), and pull on their wellies. Their boots come off before very long; little feet are now one with the garden. We get messy, we mimic the birds, and laugh. I delight in their freedom and the gift of seeing the world through their eyes.
“Be very still and gentle,” I tell Ian as I place a tiny snail into his warm, and eager palm. He and his older brother, Jake, look on in silent wonder as the snail slowly emerges from its shell. “Mummy, he tickles!” Ian squeals. And there, amongst the tender shoots of seedlings, the scattered sunlight, and invasive peppermint, I realize that my boys are learning life from the garden.
Here we learn companionship, nourishment, respect for the environment, and the rewards of hard work and patience.
Native American tradition teaches that planting corn, beans and squash, the "Three Sisters,” together encourages a protective, mutually beneficial environment for optimal growth of each. With my guidance, Jake and Ian plant marigolds and basil around the tomato plants. Marigolds are natural pest repellants and the strong scent of basil works to confuse the tomato-munching bugs.
Companionship is essential to wellness because it causes you to flourish. Think about the last time you were in the company of someone you loved or admired, someone who shared laughter with you or encouraged you to step out of your comfort zone and take a risk. As the corn protects the squash from the heat of the day, mutual companionship with one another protects you from loneliness; it feeds your soul and gives you an endorphin rush. Nature’s wisdom can be applied to wisdom for living.
The snail retreats to its shell and Ian no longer wants to hold it. I could let him mindlessly drop the snail, but instead the boys and I find a cool and sheltered spot for it by the strawberries. I want my boys to feel connected to the earth, physically and in their soul. I want them to experience the majesty of nature and grow to respect all living things. When I was a child, my mother would send us to play by our stream and she would tell us, “don’t destroy the banks. They are older than you are.” I pass her sentiment on to my boys. How we treat the earth is a reflection, a glimpse, of how we might treat each other.
In the evenings we all go down into the garden to inspect the day’s growth. I teach Ian the rather tedious task of thinning the radishes—he pulls out too many and we later eat the tender shoots with dinner. Planting a garden takes patience, planning and attentiveness. The garden reminds me that it takes patience to till and sow the direction of your life. There will be days, perhaps even months, when you don’t want to be attentive to your life’s path. The weeds—people who syphon your emotional reserve, too much screen time and over committing yourself—will creep in to choke your growth. Whether you are raising children, pursuing a career or building a home it takes hard work and patience. When you step back and bask in your achievements, the reward is glorious.
In the dimming evening the boys wander back over the stepping-stones in the garden and shoot carefree up the hill to the house. I gather up their watering cans, strewn wellies, and empty seed packets. I turn the water on in the garden and a fine mist darkens the soil. I am honored and humbled to witness the purity of childhood.