Spring is springing, or at least we hope it is. As I joyfully ordered seeds for my little garden last night, I began thinking about all the life lessons we learn from the simple act of growing food. You don't need an acre, you don't even need outdoor space, all you need is some seeds, a little sunshine, water and a touch of optimism. It doesn't hurt that 175 organic cilantro seeds cost $3.49.
During the World Wars, Americans from the hearts of urban centers to the sprawl of suburbia planted Victory gardens to support the public food supply and boost morale. Victory gardens gave people supplemental food during a time of austerity and rationing, yes. But perhaps more importantly, those gardens gave people a sense of efficacy in a time of uncertainty and hope in the midst of their anxiety. If you've ever watched children in a garden, you can attest to the sense of calm and wonder that washes over them. And I can say is that the same calm and wonder washes over me as I watch my baby greens sprout out of the soil and the tomato flowers on my vines transform into fruit.
Yesterday, I had the privilege of presenting at TEDxManhattan: Changing the Way We Eat. Before I spoke, I was a bit of a basket case and worried about everything from fainting on the stage to forgetting everything I had worked on for the past several months. But a presenter before me, an artist named Matthew Moore from Digital Farm Collective, showed a beautiful time-lapse video of squash growing. The video was a four-minute homage to the 55-day lifecycle of squash plant. Just watching a video of a vegetable garden helped soothe my nerves and bring my brain back to the task at hand. Ah, the power of the vegetable.
So these are the lessons that I came up with. Please feel free to comment: I would love to hear some more of yours!
1. Give a lot of love but don't be afraid to pull out the weeds.
Of course seeds and plants need sunshine and rain and lots of love, but they also need pruning and snipping sometimes. Don't be afraid to tell people how you feel and be honest, but always do it with a little sunshine. Boundaries don't just protect you, they are helpful to everyone around you.
It takes a long time for things to grow into something truly special, so be patient when you are learning a new skill and don't be hard on yourself when you don't get something right the first time. Hard work sometimes translates into impatience that progress is taking too much time. But hard work coupled with patience yields a much more satisfying, sustainable result.
Plants only grow in the right season, in the right climate. Sometimes things aren't right for you. That doesn't mean you don't go after what you want, but sometimes you need to accept that you can't always get it. It simply wasn't meant to be yours.
4. Variety is better.
Diversity makes things grow better. Diversity makes everything and everyone work together and makes the whole environment healthier. Accept people that don't think like you, and rather than trying to fix the differences, embrace them.
5. The most fun part is sharing it with others.
Eating a carrot alone is never as much fun as sitting at the table and enjoying it with others. Be friendly and open and don't close yourself off when you're in pain. Let people in because they want to help and don't focus on perfection: Nobody cares that your apartment is a mess or that you're pasta is mushy. They just want to be with you.