When I was growing up I loved working in the garden with my dad. My dad is an intelligent and creative man, with many talents and passions. Amidst owning his own architecture business, and the rolling course of life with my mom and their four children, the garden is where he seemed to find his peace.
I loved working with the plants, feeling the sun on my face and the soil in my hands, but if I’m honest, most of all I was curious about seeing my father in this environment. He can be an intense man, especially so in my childhood. He was a force of strength in our household, and could put you in your place with one calm but powerful statement. It fascinated me to see him on his hands and knees working silently one on one with these little sprouts of life.
It started with flowers, working together to build a row of roses on the side of the house. Then we moved on to vegetables. I was so excited to go to the garden center with him in the big Home Improvement stores. We would pick out seeds and plant them in a little plastic trays until it was time to transfer them outside. I got to be in charge of a whole tray myself, and tracked their progress in a spiral notebook I labeled with permanent marker on the cover for the task.
Eventually my dad took the next step and decided we would have an organic garden. This meant lots of work with a lot of natural materials that did not smell very pleasant. We made garden circles, planted marigolds, and shredded paper. We attempted various forms of composting; the family favorite was the big black bin that sat in the corner of our kitchen which housed worms that broke down our composting scraps. That was a tough one to explain to my middle school friends, but man did it make the best soil, just ask my dad.
One evening when I was in high school we were having a conversation in our living room where he liked to sit and read, and where I liked to interrupt him. I asked him why he was so passionate about gardening. He was a busy man with a big family. Gardening was a time consuming and somewhat expensive hobby that he had been devoting himself to for many years.
He explained it was therapeutic because it was the most literal way we could nurture the earth and the world we lived in. He stated we lived in a world where success is measured by conquering things. We were in a time that taught life was about tearing things down and taking over things. We should instead be using our lives to care for and develop more life whether that is within our families, our work, or in our backyards.
In my adult life I have come back to that conversation when I don’t know where to start. I remember this eye-opening perspective and when I am searching for purpose in projects, life events or even life chapters. I refocus on starting where I am, using what I have, and figure out how to work with it to help it grow into something even better.