Gardening season is fast approaching, faster than ever with this warm February we’ve had in the Mid-Atlantic. As I stare longingly out the window at the garden beds just waiting for me to go out and do some planting, I’m hoping that some time in my garden will help me get grounded, and rejuvenated, in the upcoming year.
It’s been a rough ride for a lot of people lately, and I’ve got to say, I’m tired. Seriously bone-weary tired. There’s been personal loss, and the slow, cyclical process of grieving. And there’s been the terrible stress of watching friends and loved ones growing more and more divided over social and political issues. It’s not easy to know what’s right, what’s best, or what to say when someone else is tense or hurting.
I think the garden can help.
I’ve been an herbalist for awhile now, and I wouldn’t want any other life. The community here at Smile is dynamic and nourishing. People here gather together because we believe in the natural world, believe in herbs and food as medicine, believe in the body’s ability to heal itself (with some support and encouragement!), and believe in the individual’s right to choose their own path to healing. We don’t always agree on everything, but we’re all passionate about what we do and why we do it.
So I’d like to think that, as an herbalist, I might have something to offer in troubled times. I’ve been doing some serious soul-searching lately, and here is some of what I have learned from our herbal allies in the garden.
Winter is a fallow time; save your strength for Spring
To everything there is a season. If I put seeds in the ground in January, they not only won’t give me tomatoes and basil, they’ll die. It’s essential to good health and well-being to know when to plant, and when to harvest. Winter is the time for rest in the garden, time for replenishing, quiet, and reflection. If we move too early in the year, we can lose all our hopes for crops. Rest when it is time to rest, and act when it is time to act. All in good time.
You cannot hurry a seed
Putting a seed into the soil is an act of faith. We place it there, we water it, and we wait. Sometimes we feel impatient, we want to know what’s going on down there, under the surface, but if we dig it up to look we can disturb the growth or even kill the new plant. We have to be patient, give sprouting seeds time and space, and believe that some day soon those lovely green leaves will appear and open to the sun’s light.
Building good soil can be your best pest treatment
Your garden soil and your immune system have a lot in common: the healthier they are, the less likely they’ll be susceptible to bugs. With our gardens we compost, rotate crops, weed, till, and cover-crop or mulch to keep the soil thriving. Our immune systems need the same kind of care: good digestion, good sleep, healthy exercise, lymphatic drainage, and quality down-time. Preventative medicine is the best medicine!
Recovery and tissue-building take time
Herbalists will tell you, you have to be realistic about how long it takes to heal from a serious or chronic condition. One of my early teachers told me to estimate one month of treatment for every year you’ve had the condition. It’s a good rule of thumb, but that assumes that you’re not getting stressed out and exhausted by life in the present moment. How many of us can say that our lives are totally under control and stress free? But all is not lost! Just be patient with yourself. It may take time to heal, but that healing will be deep and solid.
It’s looking like it’s going to be a lovely spring, and I’m excited to be out in it, participating in the circle of life. I hope that you, too, can find joy and healing in the cycles of nature. And if you want to join us here in the garden at Smile, you’re always welcome!