I take pleasure in looking at my garden throughout the day. Its opulence is a creation of imagination and nature, a space where my vague idea about growing Eden in the backyard, and then hauling soil, planting seeds, transplanting seedlings, hauling water up and down the stairs, has become a prolific transformation of elements under sun and sky.
The garden is an accomplishment that is mine and not mine, for its abundance comes from our only provider, and best teacher, Mother Earth, and the inescapable yet ignored truth that life is interdependent. A garden’s wisdom surpasses the little anthropomorphic understandings that we strain in and against daily. Planting, caring, working, watching usher a garden’s caretaker beyond human concerns and into immanence, for the gardener.
I doubt anyone wanting change for themselves or the world can do so until they have planted a few seeds in soil, participated in life’s effortless expansion, and observed the interplay and interconnection of the beautiful and so-called repugnant elements that make life possible. Seeds, soil, water, bugs, and sun change the one who plants, because life is resilient, persistent, and necessarily loves itself: life harbors no doubts, no expectations, no cynicism.
Life is, and there is no qualifying adjective.
And where life is, there is hope. Hope is the word we use in English, but it is an inherent quality of life that defies language and requires only attention, or awareness. It’s not a feeling, an emotion, or something that exists when we move beyond despair.
Hope is, because life is.
Distinctions break down in the zen given by a garden, as life’s particulars dissolve in moments of lucid acceptance that everything changes every moment yet life unfailingly persists. For as I meditate on my backyard garden’s glory, and the indiscernible yet profuse changes that take place daily and weekly, I know another reality waits. In a few short months everything will die, that everything may come once more to life. Then again. And again. This is the promise, for in the intimate coupling of life and death there are no discrete beginnings and endings, only an unbound continuum.
I planted a cucumber last year that was deliciously prolific. It died during the winter. I cleaned out its grow pot this spring, and then heavily seeded the soil with zinnias. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed odd fuzzy leaves with yellow flowers sprouting underneath the zinnias, around the pot’s edges. “Those look like cucumbers,” I thought, not remembering if this pot once held the cucumber. The zinnias crowd the grow space while reaching for the sun, but my guess was confirmed yesterday, when I saw the tiniest cucumbers growing from the fuzzy leaves under the zinnias. Less than half an inch long, and thinner than a pencil, they have found their way from the soil’s depths. In the cucumber’s roots, after the plant died, life waited. I am happy to let them do as they will, allowing them to push themselves against the zinnias and reach for the light: they remind me of life’s quiet, unstoppable, inevitable hope — its volatile power.