As a little girl in Southern California, my parents each year would help me plant my own patch of cherry tomatoes and strawberries. My biggest childhood memories, though, are from exploring magical lands (aka grandparents’ gardens).
In England, Granddad had two gardens. A smaller garden, tucked behind the shed, overflowed with cabbages, greens, and beautiful flowers. His bigger garden,”the plot”, he would bike to. He’d return before meal time smelling like a musty garden gnome and Nana would prepare an overflowing plate of vegetables with a side of meat for dinner (the midday meal). Granddad never invited me to garden with him. I simply explored by myself and enjoyed the harvest through Nana’s simple cooking.
The experience with my Italian grandparents, was much different. While Granddad’s garden in England intrigued me, my Italian grandparents taught me not just how to garden, but the beauty of where food comes from and the ways of processing it to share with family and friends all year round.
Grandma and Grandpa had a very large garden in their backyard and I got to help from start to finish. Watering the gigantic zucchini plants (or so they seemed from my eight year old eyes), harvesting green beans and prepping them for dinner with Grandma, collecting peaches from Grandma on her ladder to take inside for canning, and figs…oh warm, delicious, burst-in-your-mouth-figs. Every vegetable, every piece of fruit was enjoyed….all year long! Grandma would pack zucchini frittata for picnics, make green beans in sauce for dinner with pasta, canned peaches/pickles/cherries/galore.
I suppose my point is that, from an early age gardening has always been a love. It’s where I feel my calmest, most grounded self. This year in particular, I have noticed a great parallel between my garden space and my soul. Perhaps it sounds cliche. I just can’t help it. Last year my garden was neglected. A new baby in the family, a healing body…gardening didn’t happen. Which meant that this year, I had to totally start from scratch. This is not easy with two small children. My dad (always my knight in shining armor), got the ground started for me (with my Grandpa’s old rototiller, which should have been its own blog post!). And from there I was left with a blank slate…and a feeling of being overwhelmed. “One bed at a time” became my mantra. It’s still my mantra, as weeds multiply over night and the squash bugs come to attack. I can become overwhelmed and angry that I’m the only one tending the space…but then I remember that it IS my space, my creation. And much like myself, I cannot expect anyone to care for it more than I care for it myself. Ah yes, the constant reminder, my soul sings to me yet again, remember to care for yourself. So I step into the garden and we care for eachother.