October 22, 2017

Life Gets Better When You Plant Something

“I used to … stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of, who had never taken part in the process of creation.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Mosses from an Old Manse” (1846)
Plant some vegetables.

Janine Pineo Photo | Plant some vegetables.

• By Janine Pineo •

Plant something.

It doesn’t matter 1) how old you are, 2) if you don’t have a green thumb or 3) if you’ve never planted anything before.

You don’t have to hire a contractor to come dig up the backyard or go spend hundreds of dollars to build elaborate raised beds.

Go get some seeds or select a pot from a nursery.

Pick a vegetable, flower, herb, bush or tree.

Chances are whatever you choose will come with instructions. Following them is a good place to start.

Plant a geranium.

Janine Pineo Photo | Plant a geranium.

Or you can ask a salesperson, a neighbor or the old gentleman who lives over there and tends to a small patch of land day in and day out. Or talk to the gray-haired lady who fusses over a pot or two of flowers every summer on her front doorstep.

Dig a hole – in the ground or in a pot full of soil – and plant something.

Then spend this summer taking time to nurture a bit of earth and a plant that grows in it.

And think about what it means to be grounded.

No, not the ridiculous use of it to punish children, although that would explain why so many adults don’t want to live a grounded existence.

Nor is it the use of the word in keeping airplanes from flying, yet another negative connotation that sounds like a dreadful thwarting of freedom.

Grounded is connected, stable, firm. It is far from limiting; in its pure form, you’ll find that flights of fancy are regular occurrences.

Whether you are growing broccoli in the back 40 or a petunia in a purple pot by the back door, gardening in all its guises helps you think.

Yup, I have been gardening this week. There’s nothing like moving nearly 2 tons of composted cow manure into the vegetable garden to ground you.

As I moved and later dumped 90 bags of compost, I had time to think about what ails folks.

I came to the conclusion that many are pursuing existences that would make a whirling dervish dizzy.

I had a rather harried month of May.

For the first few days, things were on track: I was mulching and raking and getting beds prepped for the growing season.

It derailed when my aunt fell and broke her leg (she’s now home and doing well). For more than two weeks, I found myself in the car – hours and hours in the car – driving to and fro every day between home, the hospital, work and vet appointments for my Daisy dog. The closest I got to the garden was watering four flats of pansies, three flats of onions and one lonely grapevine I had purchased. Some days, I couldn’t even manage that and had to ask my sister to pour some water on them.

And I started to feel harried.

It took me a few days to realize my problem. It wasn’t the stuff I was doing; I was glad to have a chance to spend time with an aunt and grandmother I see only a few days out of any given year. Work is work and a must if I want to be able to garden and drive a car. As for Daisy, she’s fighting cancer and I want to spend as much time with her as I can.

No, it wasn’t the stuff I was doing, it was the stuff I wasn’t doing. I wasn’t gardening.

When I finally got to it this past week, I felt the harriedness drain away as I dumped the manure onto the garden. That was when “plant something” popped into my head.

No one need know you have done it. You won’t get a certificate of appreciation or a parade or a monument to your deed.

But you will know and reap the reward that comes only when you plant something.

And the Earth will remember.

First published in the Bangor Daily News in May 2008.