There was a time I valued everything in its right place. A time I believed that my value in my work, my creativity, my income, my career were all placed on things being just so. I sort of thrived in this. I was a lifestyle blogger. One that needed to show a room finished with everything in its place. I needed to wear the right thing and do something worth following…worthy of likes…engagement. I won’t lie that most of my 20’s were spent in this mindset. I set personal values to myself on these things.
Everything changed when I had our son. My body was no longer mine. I couldn’t control that. I couldn’t control how my body acted postpartum. Things were slow. My house was harder to keep clean. I was tired. I got lost in there for a while. But then a new journey started when we left the city life and headed for the country in northern Michigan. I began writing a new story of what it looked like to feel value in myself.
I headed here looking for a grounding, an identity I knew for myself with no one else saying what it was, and somewhere along the shore of Lake Michigan with a baby usually strapped to my chest, I found the place to begin this journey of imperfection in my life.
I haven’t written here in this honest way in a long time, but honestly having another baby right before a pandemic made that hard to hear myself clearly. But I felt it time because this summer I have been learning, expanding, being slow, and even more has been opened in me to hear myself. Expectations have fallen away that use to leave no room to let myself meander in my head enough. In our community, we are diving into how to live and enjoy the height of a moment in time this month and I have had so many thoughts as I read, dive into this over the last few months in prep to walk my own community through this.
So, I wanted to sit here and write, share a podcast, give some thoughts on this.
You see last year when we expanded the garden and grew it all it was the first year I felt my skills as a gardener was becoming a huge part of my career. I feared this in some way because I didn’t want it to steal the joy. The thing is I have gardened in some way all of my life. I grew up in my Grandfather’s garden in Harbor Springs. I have lived in northern Michigan where food and seasons are one and the same. I have always been enamored with growing things even in college as an athlete. I sought out these things. But when our garden was taking off and I was planning in the depths of the pandemic with a newborn I felt this immense layer of pressure building to know everything, to be knowledgeable, to not fail.
This feeling carried me through the growing season last year. Then this winter I spend time rewriting this story in my head. I realized how my garden has nothing to do with being perfect. I fail and learn. Nature has her ways and things don’t work for crazy reasons especially when you grow with nature herself and without the controls of chemicals whether organic or natural or not. Either way, she has her rhythms.
As I have gone through this growing season I have had many failures. Immense ones. My Thai Basil never took. My Tulsi never did but did from seed. I have no idea how to use Shiso. I decided corn wasn’t worth it. I got some weird spots on a tomato. The chickens still have lice. My morning glories wouldn’t grow. My melons are stunted. The soil still really sucks in certain places. But I also have had these huge wins…Tomatoes are the best fruits we have ever grown. The flowers and perennials are thriving. Our grapes are bigger than ever before. The list goes on. We finished a chicken coop. The “successes” are endless, but this year I am also adding in other things I never dreamed as successes for the garden like letting the weeds prove they were wildflowers. And my lazy weeding proved to be a way of trusting the garden herself. Or that the milkweed grew in the strawberry and bean patches or that the amaranth reseeded and is bigger than any other one I planted and seeded for transplant in February.
You see when I approached this growing season I had to see things in a new way. I love what I do and that I get to inspire you all to start gardens, live more connected to nature, and find a deeper connection to self through that connection whether from eating locally and/or from your garden….but the thing is that the worst thing is believing that in that process there is some level of success or failures. That in some way your garden should fit in a box both literally and figuratively. In fact, I have learned the deeper I watch and observe my garden and dive into connecting to it in a more intuitive way that gardening has far less to do with the pests munching away on your collards or the abundance of your harvest. Instead, it has everything to do with bringing a spirit of play and learning to it. And in order to cultivate that we have to let go of control and perfection. As adults this is hard. We have been trained to believe that we must perform, achieve, and more in order to have value or to survive, but the garden has shown me that is far from the truth solely. It is a part of it, but not the whole picture. Instead, as one of you said to me in a DM. If there is not something munching on your garden, then you are not feeding the ecosystem. Everything has a place in our garden, yes even the Squash Vine Borers. I have learned everything has its moment and time and it is simply my job to be here to tend but not perfect. But just give it all the time it needs. The more I do this and the more I let go of the expectation of performing, doing things “right”….etc. the more I offer myself an even deeper sense of grace and can see the imperfections of life as the most beautiful places for light to show through.
I think this comes with age. I truly do, but I think a garden is a place where we can learn this and live it. We can safely go through the process of embracing the imperfect without waiting for someone not to accept us because we didn’t do something well. It is in our court about how we feel when the tomatoes get blossom end rot and no one else’s. We can meet every challenge as either a moment to learn or a “failure”. I stopped seeing them this. I have done the same in myself as well. When things aren’t as I would love or it feels my “expectations” are rising I step back. I reassess. I listen to myself. I ask where the tending needs to be done if any…after all sometimes the tending to ourselves involves nothing more than just resting. There is much to hear in ourselves and in our gardens.
This summer as I have watched the garden come into its fullness I have watched so many things go against that winter/January/February plan that was so perfectly created. I probably should just let myself play in winter however I want knowing I won’t follow plans anymore ha. Mainly I needed to have a place to practice my passion, but also as we say…our best-laid plans are just simply plans. Every year I set the plants on the ground and look and forget the road map and just feel it out. Then this year I let nature play with me. It is 100% an act of letting go out there this year and nothing has been more beautiful to watch. The way nature and I have communicated through trust and reciprocity is like writing a love song I didn’t know I needed to hear or feel in my life.
The thing is if I had carried this expectation of everything needing to be just so or the rows to be perfect, the flowers to be only in one place, or everything to be constantly fully weeded I would have missed something so unbelievable this year. There is a joy I would have never gotten from this garden and it is that the unexpected, the unplanned, the lack of clean rows, or meeting some level of expectation has allowed me to learn and watch as nature does her thing. By embracing the imperfection I have allowed for a natural environment that only nature herself can plan.
So, I want you to hear me when I say that if you are growing your garden with nature herself will never be perfect and we should note this about ourselves as well. We should note why we want it to be perfect. Why do we want to remove every bug from our cucumbers or make sure that the yellowing leaves are always discarded….maybe they are like wrinkles on our skin; showing our age and time spent on this life. The more I grow with nature and less with anything else the more I realize that our greatest harvest has nothing to do with the harvest basket but everything to do with our hearts, minds, and souls. Sure I grow because I love the plants and the food and the taste of things straight of the vine, but I grow even more for the depths of healing I feel barefoot amongst the beds.
If you are growing a home garden, there will be bites in your kale leaves, there will be the occasional caterpillar, there will be a squash bug, there will be failed squash plants. Over time though we will find that this is how nature works and we will find that when these moments happen for us, they are nothing to do with failure or not being enough, instead they are simply our chance to be more whole, offer more to the world, and to be authentic to who we are.
It is a continual journey, but this year when I am filling my harvest basket or in the garden, I am watching her speak a new language to me and in turn, it is offering a new conversation in myself. I am worthy of the same tending that I give her and even more. I am worthy of this life and the joy. I am of deep value just because I am here in this moment. That is what I am learning from her through this connection and conversation this summer. It is a new level of wildness in myself that my 20 something self would have never let me feel, but one I know she desired.
This summer we have been talking a lot about this in our Community and diving in on it through our Weekly Meditations on the Podcast if you want to listen in. Our community gets specific events to work through this as well as Weekly Journal prompts to add deeper meaning and intention to our months in the garden and through the seasons. We hope you will join us in the Fall and/or Winter.