Although it was warm enough for me to plant peas and lettuce this weekend, the temperatures nose-dived today, keeping me out of the garden. I had a garden consultation scheduled for this morning and yes, I froze, but after that it was a good day to take care of errands and cross things off my to-do list. I stopped into the garden center where I spoke with my friend Nanette, who asked about some new terms she’d heard applied to present day victory gardens.
“Bailout gardens,” Nanette suggested, “or recession gardens?” I shook my head. Although I understand the desire to put a catchy label on current trends, I don’t care for either of these descriptions. I realize that the economy is one of the reasons that many people are turning to vegetable gardening this season, but I don’t think that this is the only stimulus, so to speak, for growing our own food.
We want safe, healthy produce, and we see the wisdom in eating food that isn’t trucked over hundreds of miles before reaching our tables. Yes, we also want to save money. Beyond those desires, however, is a hunger for satisfying, elemental experiences that nourish both our bodies and our souls.
After leaving the garden center I went on to the gym, where I spent some time on the treadmill. I had energetic music on my ipod, and as usual, I turned off the television screen that was in front of me. As I was running to the chanting of Krishna Das, I glanced up at the row of treadmills in front of me and images on one of those screens caught my eye.
I watched as a series of beautiful natural scenes faded from one to the other. Frost melted off a twig, mushrooms sprung from the soil, and flowers bloomed. A nest of baby birds suddenly opened their beaks, waiting to be fed. Abruptly, interspersed with these images of the natural world, were shots of a car speeding down unpaved roads. I think it was a large car, the type we would call a “gas guzzler.” I felt like I was watching an old episode of Sesame Street: One of these things is not like the others, one of these things doesn’t belong.
The manufacturer of these automobiles clearly wants people to equate their product with the environment at large. They’d like us to have an impression that the car that is plowing down a muddy road is somehow part of nature. I realize that I was only seeing the visuals, and wasn’t hearing the voiceover message, but felt that the idea they were trying to convey was that the car was as fundamental and reliable as the arrival of spring.
No. Those parts of the world that are essential and important should not be used to label and sell. We shouldn’t connect the satisfaction of raising healthy food solely to the current economy, nor should we buy into the notion that an automobile is linked to flowers and baby birds. Gardens, the wild and spring are all too important, too basic to be packaged, labeled and sold.
I believe that raising our own food, and the very act of gardening itself, feeds the heart and spirit as well as the body. I think that our connection with the natural world is so innate that it’s an insult to try to pair it with a mere car. In the time of the year when life is being renewed, let’s be willing to be truly nourished and dig deeply.