Gardening is a meditative process and a perfect study in patience. As we spend so much of our lives “plugged into” digital world, it can be incredibly rewarding to unplug and take time out at the end of a long day and tend to a garden. With my increasingly hectic life, in which obligations and time-sensitive responsibilities seem to multiply every day, being able to garden has kept me “rooted” to the ground, and it has taught me the value of care, mindfulness, and patience.
Gardening requires diligent care and attention. Failing to water a plant for a few days, one often returns to find a wilted husk, damaged beyond repair. This becomes an added responsibility for me but still differs from such daily tasks as showing up for work every day and performing at a high level, attending class, cleaning the house, and so on. The responsibility of these latter tasks often adds significant stress to my life; however, the responsibility of tending a garden is not stressful at all. On the contrary, it can be a significant de-stressor.
Gardening has taught me to be mindful throughout my day. There is something inherently real about plunging my hands into the soil to dig out a root or digging into the earth to plant red geraniums that will later bloom into a majestic display of crimson. The act of gardening makes me feel the moment. It forces to be present, ironically at the same time as it clears one’s mind. It takes days for a seed to germinate and the gardener’s attempts are really big. All seeds require moisture and a certain range of temperatures to stay alive. Once the germination process has begun, even a small change in conditions can kill the vulnerable seed. Once the new plant becomes visible, you know that the roots are also growing down into the soil. This act of communing with the earth has a profoundly meditative effect, and it has allowed me to better appreciate the moments throughout my workday, ones that all too often I spend wishing I was somewhere else. Gardening allows me to reconnect with my inner self and to value my time here on this earth.
Finally, gardening has taught me patience. Unlike many other aspects of life, gardening is never a quick fix or a rapid solution to a problem. So much of my day involves problem-solving and time management, finding the quickest, most efficient route to a concrete goal. Gardening has no such goal. The flowers eventually come to fruition, sure, but like the geraniums, they are destined to wither and fade away with the first frost of fall. There is no endgame beyond the value of the flowers or plants themselves. The idea is to cultivate them, to enjoy them for whatever short time they last. It takes patience to wait for the things one plants in the earth to bloom unless the only thing one cultivates is a Chia Pet. Once, I tried to grow a pet tomato in my room. It took four months to get one tiny yellow tomato, but it was worth it. Traditional gardening forces one to wait, and waiting is actually the best part.
The value of gardening, for me, has been the principles I have learned throughout the process: care, mindfulness, and patience, to name a few. Whenever I feel the anxieties and rigors of life becoming too much, whenever I find myself spending more time staring at my cell phone screen rather than glancing around at the elegant nature, I reconnect with my essential humanity through the garden’s conduit. It can be incredibly rewarding to cultivate a living thing, to watch it grow from a seed to a stem, to a fully-blooming cacophony of buds and flowers and splashes of radiant color. All one needs are the will to unplug and the patience to put down the phone and reconnect with nature.