I have something in common with Michelle Obama, a brand new vegetable garden in my back yard. Mine was started by my 21 year old son, home from college where he is majoring in Environmental Studies and minoring in Horticulture. For his Senior Thesis, he designed a sustainable vegetable garden in our backyard using a ‘no-dig’ method and is beginning to reap the harvest from his first crop. We have arugula, tomatoes, soybeans, kale, squash, sage, basil, rosemary, and others beginning to show the fruits of his labor.
Today we picked arugula and made our first meal from the garden, an arugula salad with mango, tomatoes, and pine nuts in an olive oil and lemon dressing. I have to say it was perhaps the best salad I have ever eaten – in my life. After eating this delicious lunch, that many restaurants in LA would charge $12-20 to serve, we looked up its nutritional content on the internet and discovered that arugula on a 5 point scale (5 being best) is a superfood of sorts, scoring 5 for nutritional value and 4.5 for fullness.
One of the most profound parts of lunch was that I could connect with its origins. We prepared the garden for planting (well ‘we’ isn’t quite accurate; my son did most of it with a little some help from his girlfriend, some buddies, and our gardener), but we (I and he) picked the arugula this morning, washed it, dried it, and created the masterpiece salad. For those of you that garden, I’m sure this is routine but I come from the school of buying my produce at the local grocery store so it really is a novel experience.
I see why growing your own food can greatly impact your relationship to food. When I saw the roots (literally) of what is found on my table, I felt a sense of heightened consciousness – a greater sense of connection between the planet and myself.
I’m just glad my son decided to create a sustainable garden for his college requirement. In the experience I saw him make something beautiful and life-sustaining out of a patch of grass. And now that we are beginning to eat the produce, I’ve discovered a new way to relate to the foods I often take for granted. Perhaps equally valuable, I’ve been able to help him when he wants my help and in that experience have a first-hand touch of the mother-child experiences that shift and change as our adult children build lives of their own.
Gardens are great metaphors for the changes we experience in life; from the growth of our children to the waxing and waning of work, family, and home experiences as we age. Having a garden in the backyard yielding food and changing with the seasons is another reminder of the constancy of change that is life. I love this reminder of our ‘changing nature’ every time I walk in the backyard. And, if I ever forget my role as a parent – to nurture and support but let our children change and grow in their own ways, the garden is a reminder. James Carse used the Garden as a Metaphor for this parent to child relationship:
A garden is a place where growth is found. It has its own sources of change…True parents do not see to it that children grow in a particular way, according to a preferred pattern or scripted stages, but they see to it that they grow with their children. The character of one’s parenting…must be constantly altered from within as the children change from within. –Carse J, Finite and Infinite Games: 1980, page 153.