A couple months ago, I decided I wanted to plant a garden. I have spent a lot of time researching good plants, soil, timelines, and tips. I’m not sure why exactly, but a lot of writers and theologians that I respect had such beautiful, insightful revelations over gardening. Its a way to connect back to the Earth. It’s both nourishment for the soil but also for the soul. That is what these writers say.
I killed my first plant. It was a succulent. I killed flowers in the fall. All the indoor plants I tried to keep during the winter died. I couldn’t keep them alive. I bought a sun lamp. I watered them. I even tried talking to them to encourage them to grow.
Then the spring came and it was finally time to plant my garden. I’ve been out there every day for sometimes hours a day. My new neighbor gardens too, and in just a few weeks we have managed to redo our shitty backyard into a beautiful garden. I wish I had before and after photos to show just how much of a difference it has made. My neighbor has been able to help me learn faster than I was learning from YouTube videos and Pinterest. She taught me how to make fertilizer and how to get make my plants to thrive.
It’s not easy. My knees and elbows always ache. It’s hard to squat in the dirt and pull weeds. Weeds have almost overtaken my whole yard since it has been years since anyone cared for the land out there. As I sit there and pull weeds every day, I find myself praying or thinking out loud. I think about the Native people that tended to the land my garden now rests on, before it was my garden. Before this place was a city, there were Native people who loved this land. I hope I can love it just as much and take care of it just as well. I pull out all the weeds that threaten my plants. I think; I didn’t have a say in what was planted here before me, but I do have a say in what happens here now.
I’m such a cynic and somehow, gardening has made me so soft. I smile at the spiders in the dirt and be careful of all the worms I come across. I don’t have time for hate or skepticism in my garden. I pull out the weeds of hate and of anger. Lately, it has felt like my heart is tangled up in weeds. I’m trying to pull them all out to make room for better things to grow. Love. Patience. Acceptance. Peace.
Two days ago, I went to a Black Lives Matter protest to demand my city defund our police. I wanted to go to say, hey, Black lives are so important, I’m risking my life to tell you. Despite the pandemic still raging on, my friends and I went. It was powerful. We chanted the names of Black people who have been murdered by police. We shouted that Black lives matter. We listened to Black drag queens speak about their experiences and their demands. We knelt together in solidarity and protest. Thousands of people crowding the streets, kneeling in solidarity.
Every day before and after that protest, I am pulling out weeds of White supremacy in my life and calling it out when I see it. I never got a say in what I was taught about Black people growing up; I saw things in the media, was given subtle messages from adults, and consumed ideas about Black people that I can’t change. But I can change what I do from here. I don’t have to keep believing what some racist family has said. I’m trying to listen to Black people more. Sometimes, I admit, it is hard. I like the sound of my own voice too much sometimes.
But in my garden, I feel more quiet. Its like the beauty of it just shuts me up. I feel more ready to listen and be empathetic. Like flowers who turn their heads towards the sun, I feel more grounded to turn my ear towards others. I have continued in my goal of reading more POC authors, and wow what a year to do it. Sometimes, I sit outside as I read Maya Angelou’s I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. I sit and I listen.
Gardening has deepened my appreciation for nature so much more. My backyard is beautiful and teeming with life. My favorite part of every day has been going outside and checking on my plants. They grow so much faster than I was expecting. It seems light just yesterday they were seeds and now they’re all tall. Well, not all. It is my first garden, so many haven’t made it or are barely sprouting. I get sad and still hope they pull through. Each plant is beautiful in its own way; so special to me.
I think once the harvest comes, I will have a whole new swell of emotions as I get to eat the vegetables that we’ve been growing all this time and season my dinner with herbs from my garden.
I have loved being able to get to know my neighbor and being able to strengthen my relationship with my siblings. We all get to learn this together. It’s been an amazing adventure.