I will forever cherish the look on my Kaleb’s face at the garden. This is the son that never crawled. Instead he scooted on his bottom, maneuvering his legs back and forth. He was fast. Kaleb has always been special. Even his birth was unique. When he was two years old he got bit in the face by a dog. He had numerous stitches, leaving the outline of the dog bite just barely missing his eye. In the Emergency Room he handled himself with bravery and an ridiculous amount of stubbornness, just like his mother I might add. When all was well, the nurse encouraged me to embrace his self assurance. He knows who he is, and he will fight. He is passionate.
Kaleb is so sure of himself that he often disregards the opinion of others. The biggest motivator for him is
noodles Super Mario Galaxy. He loves Mario. As a family we have rules and regulations when it comes to technology. But just as my gardening is my float-on-the-wings-of-angels time, Kaleb’s excitement tends to be a video game.
But tonight was different. There was a sparkle in his eye when he pulled out that bursting red radish. Or staring in wonder at the little green tomato and imaging what it will become.
My son’s simple delight in life and in what we have accomplished as a family, and the beauty of what the world holds is in his hands. Kaleb let out a little squeal, the boys took turns finding the perfect radish to pull just as if it was a new toy.
You see the subtle beauty of life is what astounds me. This is a new experience for my husband and I. For the first time of our lives, we pulled something out of the ground. It did not come with a price. Or a plastic bag. We traveled 2 blocks from our home. A fellow gardening couple at the community garden had a bountiful harvest of lettuce, kale, Swiss chard, and Arugula- they have been so kind to share. Cutting the greens, I want to fight my normal idea of logic. I struggle with the concept that this plant will never grow back after the abuse that it had no choice but to accept. What I find so captivating about growing my food: it is overflowing in abundance. Looking at this basic truth, I appreciate the process of the plant. And that makes me want to eat it. The boys can’t help themselves nibbling on Swiss chard because of the vibrant colors. I can take comfort as a mother that my boys are getting what their bodies need to flourish. I am not worried about what pesticides/chemicals have been sprayed on our food, who is making it, the condition of the farm and the workers, or how much it costs to buy at the store.
Why is gardening so important for my children? Or myself? Why is being out in nature so important? Don’t get me wrong. Being outside is a new thing for me too. As a child- I did love dirt pies, climbing trees, swinging, softball, and riding my bike. Growing up in Portland, Oregon as a family we did experience the weekend getaway for camping adventures and trips to the Oregon coast. I would find excuses to stand on the beach during a storm, letting the wind and hail hit my body. Although Portland is known for community supported agriculture and a killer Farmer’s Market- I never knew that side of life. Nature was something that floored me. But for some reason, I felt more comfortable with ignoring it. Even to this day, I am warned to not let gardening become my religion. To keep a close distance between myself and the organic way of life. But when I see my son’s expression- seeing the full process of life- sowing seed, sprout, growth, harvest. I feel a part of me that was dead has now come to life. I attended a private school for my education. I can’t decipher if it was the lack of expertise in science or simply that I was absent and more concerned with my boyfriends and/or watching American Idol. Early on I knew to divorce this passion for nature. There was a divide between me and food. That is the way it was intended to be. The grocery store provided all I needed, end of story.
I have always dreamed of being an artist. Opening a gallery with a large sign: Please Touch The Paintings. The same way I feel about art, is how I feel about plants. I have noticed one thing in common in the pictures. I am always touching the vegetables. When my hand brushes against the kale and kohlrabi- a light is switched on in my mind. Something is so significant about the connection we have to this earth. I consider this experience to be extremely important not only in teaching the boys how to live sustainably- but for their core in understanding how to interpret this world.
What I do know is that being at the Andres’ Community Garden has satisfied something in our souls. There is a peace, a stillness in escaping from the modern world to stare at your food growing before your very own eyes. After a long day of my husband away at the university, the family gathers together at the garden. I thank God for these times. These moments we are capturing as a family will never fade in our hearts.
I take comfort in that my children are being released to experience this earth. The conversation that takes place about the budding peppers. Or how saving our food scraps for the compost pile works, investigating the bugs hard at work, and understanding why this is good for the planet. To be boys and get messy. To climb boulders and take big leaps.
When we first signed up for the Andres’ Community Garden I thought I was going to gain gardening knowledge. But I am attaining life knowledge, so big that I know it is a part of my future. My destiny really. Often, I try to recoil this passion and rationalize my love of growing my own food. Yes, the organic side is extremely important. Or the fact that we are reducing our “imprint.” But most importantly for the first time I feel free.
It is easy to be wrapped up in this technology driven world. To spend endless hours Pinning my ideal garden. Being tempted to let the boys waste their morning in front of Charlie and Lola. I would like to say that the importance of being out in nature is just for children. But really, this desire is what will echo in our lives. Just like Kaleb, despite the political agenda or personal convictions, I am confident in this reality of life. I can be confident in doing it together. Growing up I always felt out of place. I was always worried about being different. Or caring for other things that other people often overlook. What I have learned from the garden is that this love of growing our food is a deep foundation in my life. This is not about being cool or noticed. This is about realizing something so rooted in myself, that I have lost touch on what the value is. It is about family. It is about the simple things in life. I want to live my life in the same way Kaleb does. Being assured in what is treasured in my heart, is good. I don’t have to convince the boys to step away from what they are doing to go to the garden. They are so eager to learn. At at the end of the day, they are learning what is important.