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Is a Garden a Life or is Life a Garden?

Updated: May 20, 2021

I didn't learn to be a gardener in a classroom. I learned to be a gardener in a garden.

Getting your hands into the good Earth, being okay with dirty, jagged fingernails and spending time on one’s knees in worship of the ground before you is a classroom with lifelong open enrollment.

When I created and taught corporate training programs for a living, we always started with figuring out what the learners needed to master to be more effective in their jobs, and hopefully, in their lives too. That’s not how I learned to be a gardener. Yes, I read books, attended classes and talks, toured gardens and spent lots of time absorbing information. But there’s only so much you can learn that way.

If I was to explain why gardening has always been important to me it wouldn't be a simple answer. There would be layers to the answer like the layers of an onion grown in fertile soil. Those layers aren't anything that can be taught in a class or a webinar or understood by walking around a patch of land.

Understanding what drives each of us to garden unfolds for new gardeners as it continues to unfold for lifelong gardeners like me. My earliest memories are colored by vignettes of parents milking cows by hand, of looking up from my two foot height at mountains of firewood stacked in preparation for winter, of Crayola colored flowers dotting our yard, and dropping seeds among rubbly brick red dirt, covering them up and despairing when snow squalls visited a few days later. Yet the magic of those seeds endured, shouldering their yellow-green stems through the surface to reach for the sun above. Despite their wintry beginnings there were too many beans and peas needing picking a few short months later.

What do my lessons and memories offer new gardeners? For those who discover their love of this craft, for it is a craft, produced with the full use of one's hands and wide open eyes noting shapes and colors and textures, there are endless surprises in store. Not unwelcome surprises, but an awakening that expands and delights over and over again after that first plant or that first packet of seeds is torn open and entrusted to the earth by your loving hands.

Welcome to this journey, this garden life. Prepare for its pleasures. Delight in its gifts.

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