What is our obsession with everything being perfect? Why do we feel we must hide those vulnerable parts of ourselves that aren't glossy, flawless, and magazine-worthy?
The garden has been amazing therapy for me for a couple of years. The lessons I've learned in nature have been every part as valuable as what I've learned out and about in our consumer-driven society. I have control issues, I know this. I hate feeling out-of-control. I call it "feeling twirly". There are many things I can assert my dominance over- I control the cleanliness of my house, wiping and polishing any evidence of dirt away. I blow-dry, straighten, curl, and battle daily to get my hair into submission. Having a bad skin day? Concealer, foundation, and a layer of powder will solve that.
But the garden? I can't control every aspect of it. There's no concealer for tomato blight, no foundation for lettuce and cilantro bolt, no powder that will halt the marigold spread in its tracks. Nature does not work that way. I still remember coming home from our Oregon trip in June of 2015 to find several issues in the garden and how upset I was. The first day home I walked around the raised beds with a knot in my stomach and an uncomfortably stress-tightened chest, lamenting the fact that my zucchini never took off after transplant, that my tomatoes had diseased, that a squirrel dug up all my lavender. As much as I wanted to have the magical touch that would cause my zucchini to implant and begin to grow, that's just not reality. It took days for the knot in my stomach to go away, for me to let go of the failure.
|Cucumber fruit that never grew, turned yellow, and died.|
Will it matter in 20 years that my 2015 zucchini plant did not grow? Will it even matter in 1 year? What about 1 month?
Really think about that. It won't. I probably won't even remember. And what will dwelling on my failure over and over again accomplish?
|What remains of my potato plants...|
I could have perfect looking zucchini. A shiny green exterior, un-pierced by the fangs of hungry insects. A gorgeous outer facade concealing the damage done by a human desire for refining absolutely everything natural in this world to our current standards of beauty and perfection.
I would also have chemicals introduced to my garden soil. Chemicals that might affect it for years to come and cause 2017 zucchini plants not to grow. Chemicals that we have no idea what they do to the environment in the long-term. Chemicals that may or may not build-up in our bodies, interrupt our hormone systems, or cause an uncontrolled division of cells in abnormal cells of our bodies. These chemicals might leach into the rest of the yard after one of our torrential summer downpours. They might be ingested by a snake that happens to be eaten by a hawk. One bee might get coated in the stuff and carry it back to sicken the entire hive.
And for what? For that unblemished zucchini?
|Dill killed after being whipped by a thunderstorm.|
This seems crazy to me. Counterintuitive. Unsustainable.
I will keep trying until I figure out how to work with nature, not against. I don't care if I fail 1000 times, I will get there by that 1001 time. I used year-old straw to mulch my tomatoes this year, and I believe that's how most of my tomatoes got blight. Lesson learned. I will only use fresh straw from now on. I'll probably even mulch with something other than straw.
|Late blight on tomatoes.|
That might be common-sense to a lot of you gardeners out there, but I guess that's education I had to learn firsthand.
A lot of people I've talked to had a rough garden year. I know I did. One person I talked to said they were so mad over their garden not producing that they were only going to grow herbs next year.
So it was a rough year. So the worms ate half my tomatoes. Next year, I'll try different companion plants to see if they keep the bugs away. So my cilantro bolted after each planting this summer. Maybe we don't have the weather for cilantro here. Maybe I'll try growing it inside instead. So the marigolds spread and edged out my pumpkin and zucchini. Next year I won't plant them right in the raised beds. So it wasn't always pretty. I want to talk about it anyway.
It's taken me 33½ years to get to the place I've finally realized that the not-so-pretty things in life are just as important as the pretty, and I'm not talking about people's looks. When I was younger and writing fictional stories, I only wrote the pretty. Happy, glossy characters living shiny, lustrous lives. Character flaws? I don't believe I ever wrote a hero or heroine with a blemished past or personality.
And therein lies our problem. If we try and fail, a lot of times we give up. Going to my niece and nephew's sporting events, I see so many kids crying these days when they don't win. Saying they are going to quit because they lost, or leave the team because they aren't the star. It's perplexing to me. Losing is a valuable and necessary part of life. I mean, do you know anyone who has never lost something in life? I sure don't. How valuable would winning be if everyone won everything, every time?
That would be a rhetorical question right there 😜
|Cilantro that bolted, and promptly died.|
|More and more mushrooms popped up everyday.|
The happy and glossy has its place. But for the most part, that's not reality.
|An ant-devoured strawberry.|
It's not always pretty. But such is life 🌎
*I did draw some inspiration from Alicia Key's essay on makeup, as it strongly resonated with me. Back to food later in the week! I hope everyone had a great holiday weekend!🇺🇸