June 15, 2013

Why I Choose to Garden

I resisted gardening. As a teen, I wanted to play sports and hang with my friends, not pick strawberries or dig up weeds. (Sorry, Dad. In hindsight, that garden was really great.) As an adult, while my closest friends found contentment in their gardens, I held back. I told myself the story that gardening wasn't for me. My main points of contention: I would start from scratch and make mistakes (perhaps look like an idiot); my yard is huge and the project too big; I'd get hot, sweaty, and dirty (and yet not get a workout--or so was my thinking at the time). Basically, I was stuck in a cycle of perfectionism; I didn't want to try something if I might fail. (Actually, I didn't want to try something unless I knew I'd excel. That was a very constricted place to live.)

But I gained more life tools and experiences, and in that process I gained more wisdom and confidence. Then I didn't mind making mistakes--in fact, that's where I learn the most. Five years ago I began my garden experiment, which continues today. Now I receive great fulfillment and restoration while digging in the dirt. All I needed to do was try.

The Top Ten Reasons Why I Garden:

10. I get to play in the dirt. This brings out my inner-child--the younger one, not the teen that didn't like pulling weeds.

9. I'm surrounded by beauty. Oh, how I love flowers: love the plants, love the buds, love the blooms, love the colors.

8. I get practice with a long-term project. My ego tells me everything must be done at once, but gardening begs for small yearly changes that create big change over the long haul. It's a remarkable lesson.

7. I feel empowered. Digging a bed, moving piles of dirt, dealing with tree roots--these all make me feel strong and alive.

6. I eat freshly-picked tomatoes. The taste of a ripe, just-picked tomato is mind blowing.

5. I'm in nature. No need to travel to a breath-taking state park; I only need enter the backyard and I'm in tune with the natural world.

4. I'm filled with wonder. The plants can grow inches in a single day--how cool is that? And it's only the beginning.

3. I learn. Each year I learn something new just by trying something new--sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. And it's all okay.

2. I'm in the moment. When I dig in the dirt, I simply dig; my monkey mind is momentarily quieted.

1. I better understand impermanence. Change is hard, yet life is full of change and uncertainty. The world is in flux. The less I resist this notion, the less I suffer. In gardening I clearly see my attachment to plants: when the weather or rabbits destroy something I've planted, I'm really sad. But lingering in that upset--or trying to control the uncontrollable--adds suffering. Bunnies will eat the plants I just put in the ground. (Dammit.) That's life. It's hard, but it's life. So I try to work with impermanence--some days are better than others.


  1. Thank you for sharing this post Joy! These are exactly the reasons why I chose grounding as my word for 2013 and why I can't wait to become of the owner of an allotment only a 5 minutes walk away from our place, next to the river. How I love to have freshly picked raspberries for breakfast ... :) Wondering what the name of the plant is with the black dots (sort of a fern?): it makes me want to go to the canvas right now :)

    1. elke: so happy that you'll soon have a physical garden in which to ground. the plant is a Remote Wood Fern. i'd love to see you paint it. :)

  2. I keep waiting for a picture of the lilac bush. Is it really growing??