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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

I am a child of the American 90’s, come of age in the era of an emerging internet (remember when it was just called the “World Wide Web”?) and countless flavors and colors of Mountain Dew. My memories of growing up was of a society literally turning inward on itself, proclaiming the virtue of new technologies and our ability to be ever-connected, always aware of the world around us, even if we never left the house except to go to work or pick up groceries.

This was the context which has framed and informed most of my life ever since. I work in IT, have a minor gadget obsession, and am always painfully aware that I need to learn new technologies in order to advance my career. I still play games, with Master Chief and Gordon Freeman playing much bigger literary roles in my imagination than any Capulet or Valjean could have ever hoped. Not surprisingly, I often find my attention span lacking, and wouldn’t you know, I could stand to lose a few pounds.

Miraculously, I was born to a mother with a very different set of priorities. Besides video games and junk food, some of my other earliest memories revolve around being forced to weed the garden for several hours on Saturdays during the summer, when all I really wanted to do was, well, play video games and eat more junk food. I spent a lot of time resenting this, and came to view the rows of corn and beans as a literal summertime curse, returning year after year with the tenacity of a bad herpes outbreak. I made fun of it, and am ashamed to say, made fun of my mother a bit for it as well. Despite her best efforts, her love for the garden was not something I appreciated in my youth. I rebelled against it, just like almost anything else my parents ever tried to get me to do.

Of course if you’re over the age of 25, you know how these kind of things usually go. Proverbs says it best, ‘train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.’ As I shed my rebellious skin (which wasn’t even very impressive or courageous, mostly just obnoxious), the knowledge and forced labor put upon me by my mother in the garden stuck with me, and I found myself drawn to the very thing I spent so many years resenting.

The tipping point, the time in my life when I knew it was a part of me that deserved embracing, came with the onset of fatherhood and entering my mid-twenties. There is a terrible grinding and wearing down of the soul that comes with trying to keep up with our twenty-first century world. Many of my contemporaries may not realize it now, and some of them may never be aware of it at all, but there is a dear cost being paid to fuel the Rat Race. I believe it is taxing our humanity, our spirit, and our relationships with both our fellow man and the earth.

I realized how much of my life was spent at a desk or in front of a screen, plugged in but disconnected from the real world. At some point I realized the extent to which the human race was creating a fantasy world, and submersing itself in it entirely. For myself and most people that I knew, finding balance wasn’t even part of the equation; the fellows around me seemed perfectly content to lose themselves in this new world we were creating daily.

For me, gardening is a way to get back to the world we were born into.  It is the polar opposite to so many things in my daily life, sitting in front of computers, reading emails, writing up work documents, playing with my cell phone and other assorted gadgets.  It is an anchor of balance, the yin to the yang, blah blah blah.  It reminds me of the beauty that exists all around us, which in turn reminds me to come closer to my wife, my children, to the human beings who surround me everyday. Without it, I feel I would be much more disconnected to the real world.  Ironically, it’s a hobby I largely pursue on my own (I will be hospitalized of shock the day I ever see my wife with spade in hand), but I have found other compatriots who share my enthusiasm.  And it’s one of the ways that I thank my mother for the things she taught me, to understand my literal and metaphysical roots, to be a man who does more than just go to work and sit in front of the tv.

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