Even if soil is not your love, Garden Medicine could be
It's that time of the year. The time when I watch and tend and wait for my vegetable garden to grow. This is my medicine you could say during this season. My remedy for the chaos in my mind. But I am not someone who loves to be in the garden, weeding and watering. That is not actually the part that gives me joy. I am in it for the waiting. I am in it for the watching. So many of my patients, friends, family are in it for the gardening. They love getting their hands into that dirt and creating. This feeds their soul and is beautiful magic indeed. But the magic I want to share with you is one we can all partake in, no matter what our love for or aversion to the act of gardening is. Come with me on a little journey into Garden Medicine. It will delight your soul.
You know by now that Food is Medicine to me, plain and simple. What we put in our body is how we feel, how we act, how we thrive or do not. It is everything. But The food in the garden is the foundation and critical connection for that belief. If we learn to love food in the garden, we can grown our love for it in the kitchen or on the table.
When I watch my food in my garden, it ignites a connection and friendship with food that I could not have cultivated with it in its adulthood. Meaning to say, where it comes from and how it is birthed is how we get to know each other in the most intimate way.
Right now, I see the first peppers glistening in the sun, turning slowly from small neon green buds to their darker, more luminescent and mature selves as the next month passes. I watch the tender first tomatoes bud, moving through their rainbow of colors to ripeness, needing so much care and tending to make sure they grow upright instead of weighted down by the strength of their limbs. I watch the thin, seemingly so fragile blossoms of my squash plant, sprouting forth as their progeny, the delightful summer yellow squash below take flight. Both have their own delectable goodness on the table but seem to be so unrelated here in the ground. Berries bud forth in a symphony of colors and depending when you choose to mingle with them, they offer a musical medley from tart to sweet on your tongue. It's up to you to choose how you want to create music with them. And then there's the kale who lives on much longer than the others, loyally returning over and over even after the other only summer lovers leave my life. It's all the circle of life and the way to make life slow down. I purposefully tend to my garden with deep, long breaths. The more present I can be with the food as it grows, the more present I can be with myself.
Watching and waiting for your garden to grow is an exercise in mindfulness and stilling the mind.
And some plants don't make it through this vulnerable infant period. The tomato who waits too long for you to come may split open showing you that its skin is not impervious to the sun that shines on it. You may walk gingerly into the garden to see that some of your leaves, the kale or cabbage perhaps, are now peppered with what seem like cruel punch holes and you wonder what other creatures are trespassing on your delight. It's the beauty and fragility of life all at the same time. They are vulnerable just like us. Without the right soil, the loving care of the sun, the attentiveness of water, they can succumb just like us. We watch the food grow and we start to appreciate our own growth. We watch their resilience and we honor ours.
Watching and waiting for gardens to share their bounties gives us gratitude for our food at the table. When you take the time to wait, when you realize how much tending is needed, you cultivate not only a garden but also gratitude for those who do this on much larger scales.
Our food connects us to the world around us and being in presence with a garden cultivates and nurtures this connection.
I have studied Ayurvedic medicine, traditional Indian medicine, for many years and in this healing system, all food has energetic properties. And that energy is affected by how they are grown. It makes sense, right? If an animal or plant is tended to with love and even harvested with love, that loving energy is transmitted to the food and eventually to the person that ingests it. It is why I cannot give my family meat that is not consciously raised. All that we ingest (even beyond food, think here about thoughts, ideas, words, but that is another blog post my friends!) and its energy become part of our energy. It is so joyful for me when I eat something from my garden. I feel like it has been my friend and now will serve me in a different but important way. I savor each bite, each burst of summer goodness that I taste. It feels like a gift, over and over.
I have such gratitude for the way in which a garden feeds not only body, but also my soul.
I was in a friend's beautiful garden in which she has tall allium plants, from the scallion family, blooming. They are an ornamental but still edible if desired. Their petals are small, magical pinwheel-like bursts of purple that make your heart sing. She let me pick some of the blooms and I scattered them on a salad that evening. In that way, I took some of what she tended to and shared them with the family that I nurture. This my friends is connection, literally from the ground up.
If you truly want to see your food as medicine, make some of that medicine yourself. Even if it's one small pot or a large plot of soil, nurture and grow something. Watch it, wait for it, tend to it and all the while take large, deep breaths of gratitude because this is life and it is your life. You are nurtured by these foods and taking an opportunity to nurture them is really an act of self-care. And if you are unable to tend to your own even small pot of wonder, walk amongst your town's pea patches, community gardens, and practice being in presence with these plants. Then the next time you eat them, you will remember them in their marvelous primal state. Either way, I send you hopes for a lifetime of Garden Medicine, it will never fail you.