Sometimes it's the simple things in life that make a big difference in helping us to achieve a little more balance in our lives. For me one of those triggers for simplicity is gardening.
I wouldn't call gardening simple. And I'm certainly not a master gardener. Like with my writing, my endeavors in dirt are on the eclectic side. I love to dig a hole, stick in a root, and see what comes of it. I pick plants not for their aesthetic value alone, or their compatability with the soil in my yard. Rather I'll bring in ferns from the woods; hostas from my mother's yard, originally planted there by my late grandmother; a variety of plantings from my late sister's gardens, which interestingly have taken root quite easily and established a home. My gardens have meaning to me, and those feelings of serenity are rooted in my own memories of growing up.
For me, gardening brings me back to simpler times. We had a big garden when I was growing up, as well as fruit trees like apples, pears, cherries and plums. My mother had a rock garden in the front of the house. I associate many fun, laid back memories with growing food and flowers: we'd pick fresh cucumbers and my dad would turn them into dill pickles; bushels of cherries and buckets of apples would be transformed into fresh baked cherry pies; pears could be picked right from the tree and eaten hard; plums were always juicy. The flowers could be picked an given to a teacher; the tiger lillies marked territory like guards protecting a palace.
So my failure in producing any edible vegetables in my own garden for years paralleled the crazy, complex world I lived in, commuting to work in the wee hours of the morning, only to return after dark, with hardly a moment to take care of myself, no less plant. I'd come home, peek behind the fenced in area, expecting to see something growing to complement the dinner waiting for me in the microwave. But it was never there. The fast life for me equated to fast food on the run, take-out coffee, and veggies and fruit purchased at the grocery store.
When I decided to get off the fast track and become a busines owner, writer and teacher, I decided to try to bring back some simplicity into my life in the form of gardening. Since our soil seemed not to inspire zucchini and peppers, I instead purchased a number of strawberry plants and planted them in the garden space. I left them there, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best.
During the past couple of years, the garden has been filling with strawberry plants. Though a tough winter has resulted in smaller than normal berries, we've had an abundance thanks to unusually warm spring temperatures. Each morning I go out and gather a bowlful, to be used with cereal, smoothies or consumed au naturel. Something about going out to pick fresh strawberries each morning gives me back a little balance in my life. I remember the days in my family's garden, or reaching out and picking a fresh apple.
There's simplicity in picking strawberries for breakfast, braless and barefoot. All it takes is digging a hole, planting some plants, and crossing your fingers. Sometimes we make achieving balance in our lives harder than it is. Sometimes it takes getting dirt underneath our fingernails to remember what life is all about.