Want to be more aware or your surroundings and nature?
Start a garden


The following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try to give all of the material posted on this site.

I always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

Thank you.

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As I write this, things in our yard are quieting down. Leaves have been raked… some trees have been cut, split and stacked… and several items like chairs and tables have been stored.

Winter is closing in around us.

But over the summer, Tigg and I planted a garden. It’s something we’ve done for many years, and often change things up a bit with different vegetables and plants. And it was during the process of tending to the garden that I noticed… again, as I have noticed it so many times before… the immediate surroundings and developments of nature.

It might be the activities of fireflies at night… a vine wrapping itself around a fence… or even the grass growing. The basic premise is simple enough… when you are paying attention to events that are part of planting your garden, you tend to notice more of the world around you.

At least the immediate surroundings.

Terry and I have moved the garden to a couple of places at our house.

Our first effort… which honestly was the best place for a garden as far as location… was severally lacking in sunlight. Which, you know about sunlight, is only one of the major things you need for a garden.

After our first attempt failed, we watched the yard for the places with the most sunlight and set up a new garden, complete with a two-part fence that included a regular white picket fence supported by a wire mesh to keep the critters out. (Which… naturally… doesn’t work, and the chipmunks and groundhogs and whatever else still manage to just dig under the fence and get in to our vegetables.)

But honestly, I didn’t come here to talk to you about gardens. Instead, the theme was supposed to be directed toward the grass and trees and other parts of being outside. Gardening was just a convenient way to segue into an awareness of what is taking place around you.

Do you go for walks?

Tigg and I do. Not as often as we’d like… and not as often and Molly and Gus would like, provided they were being allowed to join us.

And we’ve discovered a lot about our neighborhood during those walks. (And I’m not talking about creepy, “you’ll never believe what the Dillards and the Parkers are doing” discoveries.)

Terry and I have shared three places in our years together… an apartment, a rented house, and our current home. The first two, from the moment you exited the front door, had outstanding areas for walks. It was safe not only for people, but for a dog or two accompanying those people.

Our current house has heavier traffic nearby… so you can walk a bit, but if you plan on varying things at all from day to day, you eventually need to consider crossing the traffic into other neighborhoods. In some ways it’s the sunlight for the garden argument all over again -- we love the house and it’s the best place we’ve ever shared, and yet we haven’t quite reached perfection just yet.

Along the way we’ve learned which section of wooded areas belong to which other property owner… how long it takes to build a dog park… speaking of dogs, we identified the house that leaves theirs outside at three in the morning… and so on.

You begin waving to those you see regularly. Occasionally you stop and say hello. (Oh yeah… and you also learn that anyone under the age of about twenty is fascinated with petting a St. Bernard. (And if you happen to be walking two of them… well… every other person walking stops.)

And now back to that garden.

I’ve had to think about where the hoses should be stored and how to best set them up. When the summer squash and cucumbers and eggplant begin to come in… and the tomatoes, lord, the tomatoes… you talk to family, friends and co-workers to see who you just might be able to share the abundance with.

One year we planted tomatillos. Really. Tomatillos. Ellen did some work and had the basics designed for what in taste testing was a fabulous sauce, though we never got to try it for a full dinner.

Several years ago I was reading a book that talked about when groups actually cross from what I suppose I’ll refer to as an assembly into the mark of civilization. I’m not doing the book justice, but the basic point was simple enough.

There are certain things an individual must do to survive. Food… water… shelter… and you know the drill.

The move from individual to group takes place when a second person joins the first. And so on.

The move from group to civilization takes place when the efforts of only a portion of the whole is required to provide the food needed for feeding the entire group.

Again, I’m not doing the book any credit in my explanation, and the author would probably cringe to see me explaining it this way. But when, say, farming is providing the food needed for a town… and that farming is accomplished by half of the town’s residents… that allows the others in the town to explore other professions and advancements.

Does that make any sense?

Because if it does… maybe you’ll look at things a bit differently the next time you wander into the general office space and see a box of zucchini on the conference table. You might not like zucchini. Maybe you’ve grown more than enough of your own. Still… someone in your office is willing to share with everyone because they have more than they need.

And that’s part of a civilized society.

So that garden… that walk… those encounters with others in your community.

Yes… they really can raise your awareness of the things around you.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at Bob@inmybackpack.com