My potatoes definitely love me
I Love My Garden, Does My Garden Love Me?
Braiding Sweetgrass is one of my favorite comfort reads, and I’ve been dipping into it a lot lately. Over the past week, my daughter ended up in the trauma ER at Harborview/UW Hospital, was almost discharged on Wednesday, collapsed in the wheelchair, was rushed to the OR for emergency surgery, had another surgery on Friday and got a surprise colostomy. She’s had an enormous amount of testing and exceptional care all the way. After all this, it’s still not clear exactly what’s going on but seems to be a complex, interrelated autoimmune issue. Today she’s (probably) being moved from the ICU to Acute Care, which definitely represents progress. We are both so deeply grateful to the medical team and the awesome and respectful care she’s getting (the few people who have misgendered her so far were older white male docs, surprise!).
Given all these rapid, abrupt and terrifying changes, browsing through Braiding Sweetgrass and letting those healing, wholesome earthy images and stories sink in has given me the peace to sleep at night (mostly). I’ve also been able to spend a few sunny hours gardening, spreading compost, pulling up a few deep rooted weeds and noticing which plants are coming back after the prolonged cold. My grandkids have been with me in between hospital visits and we’ve been doing some late harvesting of garlic and potatoes, like hunting for buried treasure in the chilly damp earth. The potato shown above made me remember a chapter where Dr. Kimmerer and her daughter consider their own love for their gardens and wonder if the gardens love them back. How would we know?
What Natural Love Looks Like
Looking at the rich, healthy, crumbly soil in my pea patch, I feel like that lovely healing soil represents love both ways. I put in love and care and supplements and the soil came to life as the living creatures in the soil food web responded with wellbeing. Now the soil is clearly flourishing. Looks like love to me! Maybe it’s not personal exactly; I doubt that my garden “knows” me, but I feel confident that the soil biota and the interwoven webs of natural relationships between soil and plants definitely know when they have what they need and are able to function well. We even know now that many plants help each other, sharing nutrients as needed when times are tough. Sounds like love to me.
That’s what the idea of ‘forest bathing’ is all about too. Walking in the woods, we can experience that same reciprocal wellbeing as we breathe in the feel-good forest bacteria, natural plant fragrances, and refreshed air. Our exhaled carbon dioxide is eagerly absorbed by plants and soil alike and we all function a little better. Same thing happens in our gardens, so no wonder we feel refreshed and soothed just by puttering with plants! Garden Bathing is definitely A Thing! Judging by my own responses, I’m guessing that even reading about plants and gardens can be beneficial, just as meditating on peaceful images or thoughts can help us calm down and feel more comfortable.
About That Potato
The silly part of all this is that I feel like the adorable heart shaped potato is a valentine from the earth. I’ve so enjoyed looking at it and holding its smooth rounded curves in my hand that I can’t quite bring myself to eat it. Obviously it won’t stay fresh forever, but if I don’t eat it, it will soon start to sprout. Then I guess I’ll do some heart surgery and plant out each piece that bears a bud, feeling like I’m planting garden love. Happy first day of Spring! Onward, right?