Over the years, experiences and reading have taught me the order of what to plant when, what things grow well together (like tomatoes and basil), what needs space (squash), what requires pruning (sage), what needs contained (mint),… Having lived in both Kansas and Florida, I’ve learned there is a lot locale has to do with what and how to plant.
As a dog owner, I have elected to plant my vegetables in the front yard. While not the norm it affords me the opportunity to interact with my neighbors while they walk by as well as to hand out the overflow of produce. It has become a connecting point for me – earth, sun, water, people.
While I can keep my dogs out of the garden and eliminate the use of chemical pesticides, there is much I can’t control. Here in the midwest, spring brings storms with high winds, hail and the threat of tornadoes. Summer can bring month-long periods of 100+ temps.
Gardening is both an outlet and a teacher. Lessons from the garden influence many parts of my life. While tending my garden, there is often quiet time to think. Clients, my family, and the world are often the points of reflection.
I often think about my clients by working through plans to meet their needs. It is a time to gather song ideas for reflection. It is a time to create a skill builder. Reflecting informs what I need to read in the journals to stay up to date on research to provide evidenced based care.
My thoughts on family include the immediate (meal plans, who needs to be where when) and the future (care for our parents, planning appropriately for retirement and college for our child, etc.).
With the world I reflect on the issues in the news, how politics are focusing conversations, and those in need. I also consider how we can meet needs of the greying society (of which I am a part) and the needs of young children (who will likely provide the care when I am old).
Whether it is my clients, my family, or the world, the garden is providing me insights. Gardening is informing my life on a personal and professional level. Here’s what I see:
- Space for thought is needed. Asking questions, considering options, testing ideas is needed in all aspects of life.
- There are things that grow well together. I think this is why I love intergenerational programming. It can be a place where mutual benefit happens. Some goal work in a session can be combined.
- Some things need space. Whether physical, emotional, psychological or financial, some things take space. Figuring out the big space needs can be a challenge but it helps organize the things around it.
- Some things require pruning. Pruning can seem painful, but it helps things grow. As a society the conflict seems to focus around what needs pruned. Do we cut spending on Medicare? We do limit access to early education funding? Do we tax this to pay for that? There are no easy answers, yet my garden tells me pruning allows for new growth and the growth of other plants.
- Some things need contained. For me, if I allow a news event or an aspect of life to consume my day, other issues (even important ones) get pushed out. Setting boundaries is needed.
- Locale is key. Having lived in both an urban and rural areas, I know there are similarities and differences in needs, supports available, and access to services. Some locales (like my backyard) have things (like my dogs) that will trample your best efforts. Knowing the tramplers and the needs of my locale informs what I need to offer them.
- Visibility to people is important. People in my neighborhood know my garden. It also affords me a point of exchanging work information and learning about needs of others. Sharing the goods of information or programs requires a similar visibility. If my work is behind the fence people won’t know about it or interact the same with me.
- Some things are outside our control. Planning and preparation can help but they can’t prevent all issues.
- One last observation – bloom where you are planted. The self seeders in my garden are often the most able to deal with the extremes of weather. Using our gifts were we are in life no matter our age or ability is important. We might brighten someones world, feed someones soul, or assist someone in meeting a need.