That's me in the picture. Doing a bit of patio gardening. I'll admit that when I chose "Gardening" as this month's theme for Black Women's Day of Meditation's Instagram page, my intention to physically garden was not fully realized. Sure, I'd played around with the idea of planting a little something on my patio but I'd never set a date. Hadn't settled on exactly what I wanted to plant. Hell, I hadn't even gotten the supplies I needed to do the thing. Then, COVID-19 hit and - as I'm sure you know - the world changed, seemingly overnight.
Something deep inside of me - I'll admit that that thing was panic - came alive. "What if the grocery stores run out of food? What if food sources become contaminated?" My brain was on fire, fueled with every frightening scenario and instinctively I went to my safe space. Meditation. I closed my eyes and tried to stay in the moment as best as I could. When I emerged from a personal session of deep breathing, I decided that I wanted to fully commit to tending a vegetable garden. It was my brain's "solution" to a good portion of my mind and body's problems because it would provide food, I told myself. So at least, if the poop truly hit the fan, my household wouldn't die of starvation. And just the idea of doing something to stave off this imaginary death by starvation would put my brain at ease. I'd told myself that I would plant a few seeds and voila!... hunger eliminated.
In hindsight, I see how presumptuous this line of reasoning was. If you remember my post from earlier in the month about "gardening" (oh, how naive and untested I was in those days *sigh*) you'll recall that one of the biggest points I made was that you have to be in the moment when you garden. It's not about the fruit of your labor so much as the work you put in, day by day. Regardless, I set to work on my new garden with the sole intention of feeding my household (and the entire apartment complex if it came down to it) with my bountiful harvest that would sprout up moments after I plugged a few seeds into some dirt and sprinkled some water on top of it.
I went to Home Depot without having done any research. Grabbed a bunch of seed packets and tossed them into my shopping cart. "Peas, tomatoes, romaine lettuce, eggplant, thyme... sounds good!" I mumbled to myself as I imagined the salads and fancy veggie dishes I was going to make. I picked up some soil, large plastic flower pots, fertilizer and a fancy hand plow. When I got home, I filled the pots with dirt and re-planted a few of the store-bought herbs that I'd gotten. I was nailing this gardening thing. Just call me "Farmer John."
When it was time to shove the dry seeds from the packets into the soil (I'm sure those of you who know anything about gardening are cringing right now), I realized that I was about to make a grave mistake. A quick internet search revealed that you have to incubate most seeds until they sprout first. *Insert loooong sigh* Okay, fine.
I found some containers - incidentally, we'd just bought a bunch before the pandemic - and followed the directions carefully. Wetting paper towels, we rolled the seeds up into them and put them into their respective containers and into a dark, warm place so that they could incubate. While doing this, we played music and worked slowly but diligently. It was a relaxing process. And, not going to lie, I began to feel a bit of love for my little seedlings. I was putting them into little paper blankets and sending them to a kind of nursery after all.
Over the next few days, I learned how much - with all of my rushing - I'd been doing wrong. We had to set to work replanting a number of plants, because some of them - which I'd put into the same pots together - had different watering schedules that didn't match. In other words, some plants (like thyme) were drought resistant and didn't need much water while others (cucumber) needed to be in moist soil as much as possible. I set to work learning what each plant actually needed in order to be fully realized.
Essentially, what I was doing was respecting the process. And in doing so - in respecting the process of gardening - I found something to concentrate on that wasn't my overwhelming anxiety or fear. I saw (see) my plants as the living beings that they are. With varying "personalities" that require different levels and kinds of care.
The pot of strawberries sits hanging outside of my living room window, watching me and my family through the slits in the blinds. It likes a lot of sun and moist dirt and the berries are losing their green tints, getting darker every day. I like to imagine that it tells the other plants what we (humans) are up to. My cacti, which are pretty low maintenance have been getting more love and I'm seeing their color return. The other veggie plants are - hopefully - doing their thing and getting what they need. It's too soon to tell, but if they don't make it it won't be for a lack of attention and care.
So a few days ago, we checked in on our incubating seeds and saw the most amazing thing. They are officially sprouting! Little vines are growing out of our little beans and I have never been more proud. Filled with smiles, me and my husband looked at each other like proud parents. We'd left these little seedlings alone after putting them into an element conducive to their growth and we were patient. The gratification of this experience was indescribably rewarding. I literally cannot... I canna
So anyway, it's still not time to plant all of the beans/seeds (some of them need to grow little leaves before we can plant them) but we're chilling. And for the record, I am NOT a chill person but this entire process has forced me to be this way. These plants are going to do what they want and there is literally nothing I can do about it except stay in the moment doing what I'm supposed to and hoping for the best. (Sounds a lot like, uh... like symbolism for everybody's situation right now, doesn't it?)
Now for the record, I don't recommend gardening for everyone. It takes time, patience and a lot of research but, I will say this... if you don' have anything else to do, gardening is an excellent way to pass the time and restore some zen to a choatic world. Maybe I'll get some food out of this, maybe I won't. But if I don't invest my mental, physical and emotional energy into taking care of these veggies in their current state, then it doesn't matter either way, does it?
So that's it for my gardening adventures, I hope you are all finding productive soul-fulfilling ways to pass the time. And - for the love of your fellow human beings - stay inside!
UPDATE!!! (April 1st - this happened today! Pic #1 are bean sprouts and Pic #2 are cherry tomato sprouts. They grow so fast! *sniffle, sniffle*)