Back to the Garden
    We are star dust.... We are golden.... And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden...

      I've listened to those lyrics countless times, yet only recently did it occur to me that they sum up the  gardener's creed; a belief intimately linked to our distant past.  It is no accident that cultures around  the world have used the garden to symbolize creation.  Ages before modern science proclaimed it, our ancestors possessed natural widsom that told them everything in the universe was interconnected. They understood that, as metaphor and literal truth, the garden is the essence of life.

     Over the centuries we have slowly moved away from the garden. Today, we walk shoe-bound on pavement instead of barefoot upon  the field.  Many think fresh produce arrives with the early delivery at the grocery store.  Fortunately,  there remains a number of green souls who know better.  We cling to the ways of the garden, even if circumstances require us to live in or near the city.  Cars zoom past, the neighbor's stereo blasts, and jets scream overhead.  Meanwhile, we create sanctuaries of ageless, timeless tranquillity.

     Gardening is a sacred act.  This  may sound absurd to a non-believer.  Yet there is something primeval and pure about digging in the dirt.  The pungent scent of awakened earth.  The gritty, cool sensation of soil meeting flesh.  The first sight of green poking through winter's blockade.  These sensory signals compel gardeners to perform sacrament.  We begin a ritual passed down through families, discovered independently, and born anew each season.  For some the practice is continuous.  Others feel the urge less frequently.  In the northern hemisphere  there is a compulsion to cultivate in the spring; autumn Down Under.  However, because gardeners tend to have an independent nature, we do not decree that green rites commence on a specific date.  Some wait for signs from the moon or calendar, a few rely on instinct, and many just do it!

     A cultivation ceremony can be performed in a myriad of ways, but some elements remain constant and symbolic.  Bowing as we break ground with hoe and tiller, or fill carefully selected pots with designer dirt.  Gently cupping the seeds of promise as we kneel to make our offering.  We meditate on our work and conjure spectacular visions of the future.  Our craggy plot is transformed into a sea of color: deep green, red, pale pink, lavender, and gold.  Lush scents--mossy and sweet--mingle and rise from the flora.  The heady bouquet soon fills the air, enticing butterflies and bees to come frolic in paradise-- Okay, gardens rarely grow exactly as we fantasize, but perfection is not the point.

     Gardeners do what we do because we must.  We are born to be stewards of horticulture.  It is a calling that cannot be ignored.  Time and space constraints may require urban gardeners to answer the call a bit differently than our country cousins.  Yet the results are the same: we experience pleasure in and a connection to the bountiful fruits grown from golden daydreams and a bit of star dust.  This is why--via window sills, decks and tiny strips of terra firma--we get back to the garden any way we can.

Published in Martha Stewart Living, 2001

Return to