As Thanksgiving approaches, I think about what I've harvested from my garden this year, how I've benefited from nature's bounty.
The only food I grew was herbs: lovage and sage, lemon and caraway thymes, French sorrel, sweet cicely, bee balm. The sorrel I grow for its refreshing, vinegary taste; it has little scent. All the others give me both. Walking through the garden and brushing up against them, or just sitting nearby when the sun is on them, and inhaling... those aromatic molecules create a profound sense of well-being.
Beauty: a priceless crop, in shorter supply every year as our culture bows to the pressures of materialism. An odd term, "materialism"; it could mean respecting material things, cherishing the value in what we can see and touch and smell and taste. But it seems to work the other way, with greed for more possessions blinding us to the deeper qualities of physical things.
Roots: the garden keeps me caring about the wider environment. It's tempting to shut down and ignore the damage we humans are doing to the world. But I feel a gut connection to my plants, to the soil in my garden... and they connect me to the whole earth.
Health: not only from exercise, not only from sun and fresh air but from opening myself to nature. After too many hours working at the computer, when I get into the garden my whole body relaxes and revives.
Timelessness: Like the letting go into sleep, there is a letting go into simply being present. The garden teaches this ability, which heals all sorts of mental stress. Gazing at a butterfly or getting my hands in the dirt, captures my attention: I let go of everything else.
And seeds! This year I harvested seeds from apple of Peru, balloonflower, dame's rocket, daylilies, flower-of-an-hour, hostas, lovage, New England asters, rose campion, pink swamp milkweed, tall verbena... too many more to mention. I pressed seeds on everyone. I still have little dishes around the kitchen, saving varieties I promised to certain people.
There's nothing like giving away seeds. Nothing like walking through the garden, running my hands up the dried stalks to rub off the seed, until my hands are full, are overflowing ...with the potential for plants, the potential for all those experiences I've been blessed to receive from my garden. There's nothing like the experience of passing the seed on.
© Copyright 2002 Catherine Holmes Clark