Slowing down. It’s something we all relish, we all think about, maybe even strive for.
Then something gets in the way. A new activity. A new commitment at work. New plans with the family.
And suddenly, you’re thrust right back into go-go-go. Until you’re ready to drop-drop-drop.
I’ve been feeling that in abundance this past year. Maybe it’s the world we’ve lived in for the past three. But in any case, I’m ready for change. BIG change.
And I’m finding it in my garden.
I know – you might be backing away, saying: gardening isn’t for me.
Most of us urbanites have felt that way from time to time. Maybe you have a cactus plant in your living room. Or a few herbs on your window seal. But that’s as far as you’ve gone. Gardening? That’s an entirely different subject.
I get it. I’ve loved planting gorgeous baskets of flowers and lining my patios with them each spring. I love the color. I love the look as I drive up to my home.
But gardening? That just sounds … more complicated.
It’s not. In fact, I think it’s the key to slowing down.
The gift of paying attention
I peeled the plant out of its protective container. I dug a hole and carefully placed it into position. I did this once, twice, three times. Over and over again as I watched my flowerpots come to life with tiny plants ready to grow.
This is an activity you can’t help but pay attention to. Try digging in dirt while scrolling through Instagram. Can’t happen.
Maybe that’s why I love it so.
I plop down on the ground, various supplies around me. A bag of dirt. Scissors. Stakes – just in case. Markers in case I want to remember what I’ve planted.
And oh, does it feel good to push my hands through the dirt. This is about getting back to nature. It’s about reconnecting with what matters most.
The gift of watchfulness
I think it’s the mother in me. I look at plants as a mother would. Nurture them. Care for them. Because I am their mother.
It’s not something you can rush. It’s a day-by-day task, caring for them in whatever way they need.
Maybe a little water. Maybe some food. Maybe some sunshine. Or maybe just time to grow.
They say kids grow up fast. With a twenty-eight-year-old of my own, I know it’s true.
But what I remember most through the years is the process of watchfulness. Seeing her for who she is, who she’ll become. Giving her what she needs each day, just like the plants I choose to place in containers, in my garden, or on my desk.
Watching them ever so carefully live up to their full potential.
Because that’s what it’s all about.
The gift of self-care
Nurture. It’s a word we need more of in our lives.
Self-care is about taking time for what’s truly important. Spending a fraction of your day on something that separates you from the chaos of the world, and helps you relax and say: ahhh.
I remember a time when I ran twenty hours a day. I always had more to do. I could never check off every box on my to-do list.
I signed up for a retreat several hours from my home. I started the drive – late – behind because I’d tried to fit one more thing in before I’d left. And as I got further from town, the tears started falling.
Glorious mountains all around me. A winding trail that led to a ranch, a place I’d never been before.
I climbed out and was invited into a new world. Gardens to hide in and write. Hiking trails to get lost on and think. A corral filled with horses to ride. A sky to sit back and enjoy. And food – picked from the surroundings. Mmm … Biting into a salad you knew had just been picked.
That’s what self-care is all about.
I’ll never forget that retreat.
It’s something that’s helped lead me to where I am today.
The gift of dirt
I never thought much about it. Maybe it’s something that comes with age.
Dirt is the beginning of all life. It sets the stage for everything.
Dirt is the groundwork for all that is. Imagine growing anything without a foundation. Without structure. Without dirt.
Oh, we try.
But I believe we’re missing the point.
What’s wrong with having a foundation? With understanding who you are and what you need?
Why not question what hasn’t been done before? Or trying to “improve” something when it doesn’t really need “improving.”
Sure, you can do it faster, or with more technology, or with new science.
But is it for the best? Gardening helps you reconsider your foundation. Your place on this earth.
And if you’re doing and being the best you can be.
The gift of sensuality
Sensuality is all about doing something that is pleasing and fulfilling to the senses.
I dare you to plant a gorgeous flower and not feel it in your soul. You watch as the blooms come to life, bees taste the sweet nectar deep inside. Or hummingbirds flitting around, gaining pleasure from what you’ve planted.
I believe sensuality comes from reaching back to your core, discovering your true purpose. And you can easily get that from gardening.
You hold life in your hands. You gather the bounty from what you grew and protected for weeks – months on end.
And then, once harvested, you carefully use it to create a gorgeous meal.
I LOVE knowing I put an appetizer, entree, or dessert on my table, and the majority of the food I’ve used is something I’ve grown. (Even one item – a tomato – can make you feel proud!)
The gift of beauty
Let’s compare a concrete jungle … to a garden.
No comparison, right?
I’m a city person. But I just feel different when I surround myself with life.
Plants do that in a way you can’t experience with anything else.
I love walking through my community gardens, feeling the joy that comes from viewing life, the love each member has placed into their own plots. I see it in their designs. I feel it when we talk about our harvests. I taste it when we share the bounty with one another.
The gift of better nutrition
What gives you a boost: fried food or food picked from a garden?
Kind of a no-brainer, right? All you have to do is look at the rich colors and the diverse shapes and sizes of fruits and veggies to know they’ll do a world of good, providing you with mind and body boosters.
I love waiting patiently for something to ripen. Then picking it, knowing it’s at the peak of perfection.
The first tomato I ever grew – the juice exploded when I bit into it. And the flavor!
We’ve rushed every process of our current food supply. We notice it in flavors. Picking green means it doesn’t receive every last bit of nutrients possible. That only comes from letting nature take its course, and allowing all the good stuff to flow into the final form.
When you grow it yourself, you can taste the difference.
The gift of exercise
Reaching. Stretching. Bending down. Running to and from the garden shed.
Sure, it’s not a power class at your local gym. But every day is a new experience, from planting, watering, and picking.
Plus you can’t help but wander around and enjoy the sunshine. It sure beats staying indoors, even on the hottest days.
Because if you choose wisely – I love to head out after dinner – you’ll find you spend even more time enjoying all that you find in nature.
One thing always leads to another.
We always try to make things complicated, when really, it’s all around us. When I first moved to the Pacific Northwest, we dove into local history. I remember perusing the exhibits at a local museum. I was surprised at how fit the farmers and builders were. It’s because they worked hard and used their muscles.
Big difference between jobs from the early 1900s and today.
But you can still reap the benefits by heading outside and growing a few things of your own.
The gift of pleasure
Pleasure. What comes to mind when you hear that word?
I recently read a report suggesting women are more frequently facing anhedonia. Anhedonia is a medical term for the inability to feel pleasure. No surprise, it’s a common symptom of depression.
Most of us understand what pleasure feels like. It’s what makes you feel good. Maybe riding a bike, listening to music, relaxing with a good book, or feeling joy when spending time with a family member.
That’s slipping away as women feel more exhausted, burnt out, depressed, and joyless. We’re superwomen, and we live on overdrive. Skip doing things for ourselves; it’s all about those around us. And after years of living this way, it feels almost impossible to find our way back.
Pleasure = joy.
Pleasure also = feeling.
You can’t get pleasure back without revving up your feelings dial. You have to start noticing the way things appear in your life.
Where do you start?
- Slow down
- Move your body
- Release tension
- Let your emotions run wild
Guess what? There’s something about working in a garden that accomplishes all that and more.
The gift of slowing down
We’re right back where we started, and I’ve saved this until the last for a reason.
Slowing down – what does that mean to you?
I think slowing down is hard for most of us because we’ve been trained to keep our “superwomen” status on at all times. We may think slowing down means grabbing a yoga class or practicing 10 minutes of meditation. Yet we approach that with superpowers, checking it off our to-do lists with gusto.
I know. I was there.
What we’re really doing is staying busy to avoid all that stuff that’s going on internally.
That’s the hard stuff. And it’s where gardening can help. I find myself thinking more when I head to the garden. I ask bigger questions. And more importantly, I find answers.
It works for me.
It might work for you too.