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The Thread that runs through: How Playing in Dirt, the Art of Gardening Contributes to Wellbeing

Updated: Jul 5, 2022

There is something about long commute times that mess with your psyche…you try to decorate the time spent in this tiny space, listening to music, podcast or the news of the day, sometimes being prayerful. Sometimes, it's the only period of silence you have for the day.

Do you sometimes even find clarity on some decision you have been stumped on? or random thoughts peek in, like me this day I began tracing the root of what is now my passion for "playing in dirt" as I call it. You call it the art of gardening.

My 40 minute drive sent me back to my first memories.

Growing tomatoes in the front yard of our

Caribbean valley home, I must have been 11 years old. A few of my neighbors were avid gardeners with one of them winning many local awards. He was what we now call a 'master gardener'. He had elaborate large beds with vegetables and all sorts of other plants. He used newspapers as "mulch", this was back in the 70's, cow manure to enhance growth and I am sure he had irrigation. I would stand in awe of all the green foliage. He gave me some of his tips and tricks, improving my gardening knowledge stimulating my curiosity. I tried out his formulas in any small space I could find. And I had plenty the whole front and back yard. I read the "Farmers Almanac'' and any other magazine that showed a leaf, flower or fruit.

My mom would say "all we need is a cow for milk and chicken for eggs"...I grew everything else. I also remembered the arguments between my mom and grandmother who could not understand why I spent so much time outside instead of doing indoor "girl" chores. Mom would just ignore and leave me to my gardening shenanigans.

Now years later I’m still "playing in dirt". I enjoy working with the rhythm of nature, it brings a stillness and sometimes clarity. Some years the yield is only green tomatoes because it rained most of the season, sometimes it is more squash than I can eat, freeze or give away. One year it was so much eggplant, that just the word sends my daughter hiding. I made every eggplant dish I could find.

I planted in containers when I lived in apartments. Mom would gage my wellbeing by asking " are you growing anything?" If I said no she knew I was in a bad place emotionally.

When I bought my first home I finally created MY garden space that was a bit front lawn and open, my neighbors had a front view. I enjoyed delivering my yield to them. After which they looked forward to the fresh deliveries.

Moving to my new home in 2018, I had to start from scratch. Except for the garden gate that was handmade by one of my daughters high-school classmates. I took it down the night before I moved, when I learnt that the new owners were going to destroy the garden space.

I am not going to tell you that I was looking forward to this project. I felt like I was taking a grand final exam where you impress all with what you can do, what you learnt. I was not looking forward to the manual work of digging, shoveling, planning. To add to my dread I did not realize I was in the tongs of depression. So of course...

I did nothing in 2019

BUT my daughter who rises up intuitively (like my mom did) whispered encouragingly 'I know you mom' as if channeling the 'what are you growing', measure mom used on me. Ari ( not a dirt lover) picked up a spade and started digging, "so... what are we planting?" I bought the subliminal push.

2020 I created my 2nd garden. It was very fruitful, peppers, herbs, summer squash and lots of eggplants. LOL

2021 I went even bigger, formalizing, irrigating, and studying. Again a fruitful year but not as the year before. I hinted in my last post Still Winter one of my issues.

My commute ended with the realization that the art of gardening is something that has traveled with me through all the hills and valleys of my life. It is the thermometer of my wellbeing, the garden space is where I am most comfortable, time has no meaning, sweat and sore muscles are achievements.

Even when my plans did not turn out as I expected...coming home after a vacation to my hard work dried up and dying cause my family forgot to water... or the horrid hookworm caterpillar demolished the peppers just when it was time to harvest,

I was saddened, upset, disappointed, but always found some plants so resilient that when they revived, were so lush, they softened my disappointments.

Now 2022 . Here is the real "show we what you got! Show down! I have BIG plans.. With 13 raised beds the final 3 assembling as I write.

It will either be the Greatest show or the Greatest burst…. LOL..

I'm hoping to share more of this year's gardening journey with you. The triumphs and the burst….

What revelations have your commute revealed about your evolution in art, gardening, cooking, your resilience, your passion? Do you find your commute time even if it is to the grocery revealing? Please share with me. I am sure you have amazing stories!

It's spring, a time to start again, it's showtime!...

Always looking up!


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