Why I Garden?
Three little words arranged into one short question opens up a world of memory for me. Why I garden? As I think about my love for digging in the soil, I realize even dream-like and fleeting experiences have become deeply imprinted on my mind. People, places, aromas, songs, the way our family lived as part of the land—if I dissect my memories, these glimpses of my life add up to a love of nature and gardening.
Why I garden?
Because one of my earliest memories is of the apple orchard on the home place. My great-grandmother took me for walks when the air was filled with the smell of blossoms and later when fruit hung heavy on the trees.
Because Lona Crews grew bearded irises in velvety colors around her farmhouse.
Because old homestead sites around Mississippi County, long abandoned and vacant of structures, still offer clumps of daffodils in spring and surprise lilies in late summer.
Because soil and seeds and crop rotation were regular topics of conversation at our supper table.
Because the supper table included something grown from soil that doubled as our playground—green onions and garden tomatoes, chow-chow canned by a great-aunt, sliced cucumbers and white onions soaking up vinegar.
Because my sister and I had spring picnics under the plum tree and ate our fill of cherries in June.
Because we baked mud pies on hot days and climbed trees barefoot and made racetracks in the field for our rusty matchbox cars.
Because looking for four-leaf clovers was a favorite pastime; clover necklaces and bracelets the result.
Because Aunt Virgie grew wild strawberries and kept chickens and had a most fascinating corn shucker in the barn.
Because Nana grew irises and roses and walked with us to the back corner of the field to see what wildflowers were growing on the ditch bank.
Because the ditches were filled with tadpoles and butterflies were plentiful all around our house.
Because on rainy days, we stomped around in mud puddles; on flooded days, we swam in the backyard with our Barbies; on snowy days we made snow angels in the front yard and explored the fields with brand new eyes.
Because a single rose bush at the end of the driveway generously provided perfect pink buds in time for the Mother’s Day service at Brinkley Chapel.
Because black-eyed susans grew wild on the Ozark roadsides, welcoming us back to the lake.
Because Uncle Rex could stick his thumb in the ground and sprout an entire garden of azaleas.
Why I Garden?
Because I chopped cotton one summer and learned the difference between weed and seedling.
Because of lightning bugs and star-filled summer skies.
Because entire afternoons could be spent listening to stories while aunts and cousins shelled peas.
Because of Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Because Momma planted flower bulbs and vegetable seeds and dragged the water hose all around the house to water them.
Because of the pecan trees in our yard and the cactus on Nana’s carport.
Because a magic carpet of moss grew between the stones in front of our house.
Because the nearby Mississippi River provided a constant reminder of life.
Because I made thousands of wishes on dandelions, many of which have come true.
Because angels walk among the blossoms and blooms. And I can always find myself there.
“Gardening is akin to writing stories. No experience could have taught me more about grief or flowers, about achieving survival by going, your fingers in the ground, the limit of physical exhaustion.” ―
So tell me, why do you garden?
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.
P.S. Last week marked the 48th year anniversary of Carole King’s Tapestry album.