What gardening has taught me

What gardening has taught me

A dear friend recently confided that her life over the past few years has been marked by a succession of fresh starts – a sentiment that resonates with many, including myself. 

The prospect of embarking on a new chapter can manifest in various ways, whether as simple as switching to a different hair product, as both daunting and exhilarating as launching into a new job and relocating, or as painful as grappling with the loss of loved ones.

I’m no stranger to the ebb and flow of closures and fresh beginnings, moments I’ve consistently approached with a mixture of excitement and trepidation. A significant turning point for me unfolded during the 2020 pandemic, ushering in subsequent new beginnings. Between these changes, I found solace in acquiring and nurturing plants until my little balcony was filled with pots of plants, some of which I don’t even know the names of. 

Gardening, in all its trial-and-error glory, has proven to be a profound learning experience.

Some of the plants in the author’s balcony

Taking a break. In between planting, repotting, changing soil, and figuring out what ails a certain plan, you need to take a break from gardening. You get up, wipe the sweat that formed on your forehead, and hydrate. Amidst worldwide economic interruptions, I found myself in a weird situation where I was grateful for my job, and at the same time, I wanted a career break. I was exhausted physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, it felt too much to ask for a little break lest there is no job waiting for you when you come back after a week’s rest. When I started gardening, it dawned on me that I didn’t need anyone’s permission to take a rest and that I had to honor my body and prioritize my health. Taking a break is a must. 

Being present. When you are gardening, you are forced to be still, to be in the moment. You can’t be anywhere else. Sure your mind may wander, but one look at a sprouting bud or a tiny flower brings you back to your senses. This is one of the healing powers of gardening. Studies show that gardening improves one’s mental health. 

In gardening, you get to acknowledge and appreciate the beauty
of what surrounds you

Being in the moment has been a challenge for me. I was always after the next step, a new place to visit, an upcoming trip, or what have you. When I am gardening, I am present.   And except when my cat Daisy meowsa her way towards me and dominates the scene, I just enjoy the moment. 

Noticing beauty. If you check your plants a few times a day, you notice the little changes. A plant that used to slightly lean on one side is now standing up straight after watering it. A new leaf is starting to sprout on a Queen of the Night plant. The Golden Showers are giving more flowers. The Basils are ready for harvest. 

When you are always rushing every day – from one place to another or one task to another– you do not notice the beauty around you. 

I can recall days, months, and years that seemed to pass by in a blur. I can’t turn back the hands of time, but I can learn from those. 

Appreciating growth. Progress is progress no matter how small. I knew very little about gardening when I started hauling plant after plant into my balcony. In my mind, I remember my late Father throwing a bunch of tomato seeds somewhere at the back of our property and then some days later, I would witness the growing plant.

When I started planting, it felt like I had little progress. I felt like a failure. There I was, out of a job, and could not even grow a plant. One day, the Golden Shower that I thought had died because of lack of water, started to show some signs of life. Small leaves started to grow from each branch, and I remember how glad I was. Within weeks it gave me lovely little flowers that lifted my mood.   

Embracing lack of control. Even if I give it the best care, a plant that is not its a suitable environment will not thrive. I was given a Bird’s Nest plant and for more than a year I took care of it, but it wouldn’t flourish. I decided to give it to someone who can take better care of it in a more suitable environment. Other times, a plant may seem healthy yet days of unfavorable weather may cause it to wither and die.   I am still learning and re-learning the art of letting go. 

There are still lessons this gardening has been teaching me. Gardening has been keeping my feet planted on the ground (pun intended). It’s a journey, and I keep learning. In a gist, it has been fulfilling and enriching my life in ways that I could only begin to comprehend now. There will be more changes, good and not-so-good. I can only hope to remember all I have learned from this hobby I have come to love. 

You may reach the author at [email protected].

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