This morning I took advantage of the mild weather to get some chores done in the garden. As I kneeled on the ground planting garlic I thought about my recent trip to Georgia. I arrived in Atlanta the day before the State was set to execute Troy Davis. I’d been following the case through online news outlets, but it wasn’t until the morning of my talk that I realized that the time was set to correspond with the moment I got up to speak at the botanical garden.
This threw me into a tailspin. Should I recognize the moment? In my personal life I would. Yes, people around the world die every minute of everyday, but State sanctioned murder is not the same. Here I was in the place where it was about to happen and at that very moment. Not saying anything felt like intentional avoidance or denial, yet at the same time I was a guest from another country — people had come out to hear me speak about growing food and I did not want to send them home feeling badly, or worse still, judged.
Over the last month or so there had been some online chatter about the role of garden writers. Several people said that garden writers should stick to plants and pretty things and that there is no place for politics. I have already stated my opinion on this topic and find it interesting that it was only a short time later that I was in a position in which it was tested. Where is the line between our personal and professional lives? For me it is very fuzzy and I would not have it any other way.
In the end I decided not to mention what was happening directly, but instead thanked the audience for coming out at a difficult time within their community. I went on to talk about the hopefulness that is inherent in growing a garden. We come to gardening for all sorts of reasons and each of us takes something different and unique to our condition as humans away from the act. But at its heart, growing a garden, especially a food garden, is hope put into action. We plant food with the expectation that there will be a harvest some months down the road. This morning I planted my wish for a spring with garlic shoots emerging from the soil and lots of plump bulbs at next summer’s end. Later today, as I plant flowering bulbs, I will be making a small investment towards bringing springtime colour and delight into my little part of the world.
Within these simple acts, we gardeners remind ourselves that we will have a future and that we can take some agency in making the future we want to have. That may seem insignificant, but I wonder if we aren’t taking it for granted that acknowledging and wishing for a future is a big deal. Some people aren’t capable of seeing a future ahead of them, either because of their own internal struggle or because of their geographic condition. Wishing for a future and taking some action to shape it is meaningful.
Yesterday, I lamented the end of the garden season and the coming winter. The changing seasons are a condition I can’t control. I don’t always like the season that lies ahead, but I do know and understand its importance. I find it interesting how the act of gardening has me thinking in a tangible and concrete way as far ahead as next summer. I can already picture it in my mind and I have the skills and knowledge to make that picture a reality. Few other activities force me to acknowledge and experience the here and now while also reminding me of my past and giving me the equipment and confidence I need to grow my future.