We've all felt that these past six months have been confusing, challenging, disorienting, and even demoralizing at times. Many of us feel stuck. There's a sense that we're all living through Groundhog Day.
But even through a pandemic the garden must grow on. And thank goodness it does, for there is no better reminder of continuous change, growth, and decay than the daily waxing and waning of the garden and all of its intertwined inhabitants.
It is, then, no coincidence that these past six months have given rise to a revival of home gardening and all sorts of skills that are usually left to the homesteader. Who hasn't baked of loaf of sourdough bread or slipped some seed into the fertile earth these past six months (or at least seen their friends do it on Instagram)?
Just as in times of war or major depressions, we perpetually turn towards the comfort of the garden and hearth when life feels out of alignment. Not only are we nourished by the physical gifts that spring forth from the ground, we're also able to forget the noise of the wider world when in the garden. We are able to delve deeply into something as simple as pulling lamb's quarters, flipping compost, bundling herbs for winter. Gardening moves us away from generalities, tribal associations, and abstractions; rather, we focus on the specifics of soil, water, plant, animal. Our senses fill with the allure of color, scent, and sound. We spend time watching a goldfinch feast on Thistle seeds. All of a sudden we find that we feel no longer "socially distant" but rather "in touch" with our surroundings.
It is no wonder, then, that the therapeutic benefits of gardening are becoming increasingly well-known and utilized in clinical practices. In her book, The Well-Gardened Mind, the author Sue Stuart-Smith writes that "when we plant a seed, we plant a narrative of future possibility." Gardening is a constant reenactment of life's greatest miracles. And it is also a reminder of our power to create and steward, to feed and nourish ourselves and our community. No surprise, then, that as our political and social worlds spiral into upheaval and uncertainty that we should return to the seed, the soil, and the soul of creation.
For those looking for a moment to forget the noisy world and remember the immutable change of nature, we invite you to step into your garden, or ours. Plant a seed. Give it space, water, nourishment. No doubt you too will find yourself nurtured.
Entries are submitted by project staff and UMass students.