This is a column that I have shared before, but now that the holiday season is officially upon us, I felt that it was appropriate to share it again.I originally wrote it after a visit with a friend who was courageously battling cancer — a battle he ultimately lost — as I reflected on the conversation we had about life and and what is truly important. At that time, I wanted to share our conversation in my gardening column and my belief that gardening is a celebration of life, and each of our lives is mirrored in the seasons of the garden.
During the spring or beginning of our lives, we are like the seeds that are carefully sown, each with tremendous potential. The newly planted seeds emerge from the soil and need to be nurtured (fertilized, watered and weeded), as they grow. We are like the young plants, as during the spring of our lives. We are also tender and require a lot of care, love and maintenance.
When the spring turns into summer and the small plants have grown into beautiful flowers, nutritious vegetables or delicious fruits, they begin to reach their full potential. It is at this time that they are enjoyed by many people. Similarly, in our lives, we have the opportunity to grow and mature into individuals with many talents and gifts that we can share with others. Furthermore, like our counterpart in the garden, we may need additional support and training to reach our full potential. It is important that we take time to enjoy our families and friends, and the talents and beauty of others who may cross our paths. In the garden, we can enjoy the beauty of a myriad of colors, textures and shapes that are a part of the natural world.
After the passage of time, combined with much loving care, a bountiful harvest will eventually result, whether in the garden or in our lives. Then, as summer fades into fall, colors of remaining flowers seem to intensify, while there is an abundance of vegetables and fruits. In addition, the surrounding countryside is ablaze with an array of colors as nature puts on a dazzling show. Like the plants, we shine brightly as our friendships grow and strengthen over time. I think of older perennial plants and how their roots grow more securely into the soil, which is analogous to how our relationships and friendships strengthen and deepen with maturity.
With the onset of winter, the gardening season comes to an end, as the barren appearance of the garden seems to give the impressions of being lifeless. However, an avid gardener knows that life continues, hidden in the seeds. Life is there; it is only resting, to once again grow and bloom next season. Even in winter, although lacking the vivid colors of summer and fall, the garden contains the majestic forms of the golden and brown grasses, many leafless shrubs are covered with brilliant berries, and stark outlines of the trees all cast against the slate gray sky of winter. This is indeed like life — as we age, our physical shape may change, the color of our hair may fade, but our outline and inner spirit is still present.
Therefore, gardening is indeed a celebration of life and that is why I believe that so much of our lives are mirrored in the life of our gardens. As we garden, we need to reflect on and celebrate the different stages of our own lives and the lives of those we love and those that tended our garden of life. The holidays are is the perfect time to reflect on both gardening and life and to give thanks for the beauty and bounty to be found not only in the garden but also in nature and for the lives of family and friends.
Bill Lamont is a professor and extension vegetable specialist in the department of plant science at Penn State and can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.