I have dirt under my nails.
And that’s remarkable for two reasons:
1. I have nails.
I have been a lifelong nail biter. My nails are usually bitten down to the nub, my cuticles a tangly, scraggly mess. But the happy occasion of my beloved sister-in-law’s wedding two weekends ago – along with the help of an ill-flavored goo that I’ve been painting on my nails for the past month – prompted me to stop biting.
2. I am an indoor girl.
As much as I appreciate the power and bounty of nature, I have generally been one to prefer the comforts and ozone-depleting properties of central air conditioning. My fair skin doesn’t take well to the sun and I cower from it under floppy hats and SPF 45. I am quick to rinse the sand off my feet after leaving the beach. I prefer hotels to camping.
Forget that: I don’t camp.
Becoming a parent has challenged me in this regard – the indoor one, not the nails one – because my boys love to be outside. They love to run barefoot in the grass and dig with sticks in the muddy patches at the end of our street. They seem happiest when sweaty and coated in sticky sunblock. So I’ve had to get over myself a bit and spend more time outside.
And I decided this spring – perhaps in a postpartum haze – to go whole hog and embrace the outdoors by starting a garden with Big Brother.
Given that I am descended from indoor people and have a thumb that is decidedly not green and that our backyard is populated by enough deer and rabbits to make it a fitting setting for an animated Disney movie, I decided to start small: with several containers on our deck.
We planted basil, bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, eggplant, pole beans, and lettuce on Memorial Day weekend.
And get this, people: we have produce! Several strawberries and enough lettuce for a large salad every day. Our basil plants throw a sweet-savory smell over the yard. The tomatoes are green on the vines and the beans, peppers, and eggplant are blooming.
I know I’m not the first to see the joys of gardening and the multiple metaphors it affords. But I have been pleasantly surprised by the satisfaction I’ve gotten from hunching over our planters, picking out the odd weed and working with Big Brother to lug repurposed milk jugs full of water to pour over our crops. The sweat feels good trickling down my face, the dirt feels meaningful under my nails. And I’m not even jumping into the shower when we head inside.
The thing about gardening – I think – is that it is perfectly emblematic of the way I feel most content: not necessarily in achieving a goal, but in working toward one. Not in eating the sweet, ripened strawberry, but in nurturing the small plant as it grows.
Sure, I will be happy later this summer when I serve my family a meal made largely out of plants grown in our garden. But the joy will likely come in the experience of growing them with my large hands and Big Brother’s smaller ones.
Do you find more joy in the process or the product?
Do you garden? Do you know if new strawberries will grow on the daughter plants that are now taking over our container?