Fruits of the Earth
Kristen Gittinger, CVV 21
Lettuce, peas, green beans, kale (…so much kale), parsley, carrots, peppers, spinach, tomatoes, struggling eggplants, spiders, weeds, bees, killdeer bird eggs, and butterflies — all of these find a home in my 10×10 community garden plot.
Although I watched my mother and sisters plant seeds every spring growing up, my curiosity for gardening didn’t begin until my year with CVV. At home, I watched community members tend to kohlrabi in the front yard and sprout their own tomatoes in the kitchen sunlight. I observed my supervisor at Senior Support Services picking weeds and spending time every Friday to engage clients with a garden activity. I walked through the garden with clients who were beaming with pride and eager to show me the flower pots they designed or their carrot seeds that finally sprouted. Being surrounded by caretakers of this wondrous earth, I was inspired to be one too.
After CVV, I moved back to Ohio where the caretakers’ impact on me became tangible. My longing for nature was revealed to me when a friend joked that I had turned my grad school dorm room into a greenhouse. (I had a tendency to gather plant cuttings from around campus to fill the empty vases and pots in my room… I have not discovered a real need for scissors in grad school otherwise!) I craved connection with the earth in a not so subtle way. Soon after my friend’s observation, I stumbled on a newspaper article written about a community garden in my hometown. I inquired and that day I became a gardener! I figured gardening would be a new hobby, something fun to dabble in while fulfilling my desire to connect with nature. I had no idea a bed of dirt would become my sanctuary and the source of spiritual growth.
While there’s always lots of enjoyable work to be done, sometimes I visit the garden simply to be. To sit still in the sunlight. To hear quiet and feel peace. To admire the accomplishments and beauty of my neighbors’ plots. For me, gardening fosters personal reflection. It pushes me to better understand my relationship with God. Every morning as I tend to flea-infested eggplants, I am reminded that my friendship with God also deserves zealous attention and care. In the same way I practice patience with slow-growing spinach, I am challenged to be patient and trust in God’s plan for my life.
Gardening also invites me to step outside my personal reflection and build community. At Senior Support Services, I fell in love with the presence of elderly adults. There was never a dull moment amid their humor, honesty, and wisdom. Once again I find myself surrounded by older adults in the garden: grandpas with grandkids, married couples, widows, and single adults. We don’t talk all the time and often I am in the garden alone. However, I’m realizing that these individuals, who cross paths by chance, form a community. I’ve learned that what I do in my own garden plot affects others. If I don’t collect weeds, they blow all over and invade other plots. When someone forgets to shut off the hose, water floods the nearby gardens. Together we are responsible for creating a unified environment. We count on each other to turn the compost and clear weeds from the aisle ways. We combine our produce to give to the local food bank. We water for our neighbors when they are away on vacation. We celebrate life and express sad news via the memo board. We share tools in the shed and any seedlings we have leftover. The tremendous team work within these garden gates leads me to ponder: What would the garden be without community? How would it look and feel without the commitment to one another?
I’m nowhere near master gardener status (made obvious by the stack of gardening books I have next to my bed) and I’m not so sure I’ve been blessed with a “green thumb.” But I feel called to continue my journey as a gardener so that the seeds of reflection and community planted during CVV are nurtured and grown.