Gardening, kindness, Mental Health, Nature

Growing Kindness (and tomatoes!) in Community

Sometimes just the right quote, story, poem or anecdote comes along that perfectly speaks to your season of life. I recently stumbled across a poem by Sam Walter Foss titled The House by the Side of the Road that spoke to mine. 

The House by the Side of the Road

THERE are hermit souls that live withdrawn in the place of their self-content; There are souls like stars, that dwell apart, In a fellowless firmament;There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths where highways never ran-But let me live by the side of the road and be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road where the race of men go by-The men who are good and the men who are bad, as good and as bad as I. I would not sit in the scorner’s seat nor hurl the cynic’s ban-Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road, by the side of the highway of life, the men who press with the ardor of hope, the men who are faint with the strife. But I turn not away from their smiles and tears, both parts of an infinite plan-Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead, and mountains of wearisome height. That the road passes on through the long afternoon and stretches away to the night. And still I rejoice when the travellers rejoice and weep with the strangers that moan, nor live in my house by the side of the road like a man who dwells alone. 

Let me live in my house by the side of the road, where the race of men go by-They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong, wise, foolish – so am I. Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat, or hurl the cynic’s ban? Let me live in my house by the side of the road and be a friend to man.

___________________________

I have been extraordinarily blessed to have spent the majority of my life happily living the life of a hermit in the country. 

Incredibly, in this new season of life, I now find myself living in a city alongside a million and a half people. Things change when you least expect it. It has given me a fresh perspective on self sufficiency.

If a thousand people flee the city to start a homestead, they will be able to attain a level of self sufficiency rarely found in the confines of a city. Instead of relying on a somewhat shaky and ill thought-out food system, they will become authors of their own future. A life of hard, but oh-so-satisfying and meaningful labour, will be their reward. A life I knew and loved so well.

But, from my new city-dwelling perspective, I wonder what kind of world it could be if those same thousand people simply dug in and applied their skills in the city. What if they chose instead to bloom right where they were planted? If they were willing share what they knew? What if their enthusiasm took root and spread?

I envision food secure neighbourhoods where yards are filled with produce and city parks are brimming with orchards and community gardens. A lot of pockets of the city I am in already have well established community gardens that grow food along with friendships and a real sense of unity. I do believe this will continue to grow with time. 

Gardening doesn’t just nourish our bodies, it mends the mind. I think so much of our stress and anxiety could be worked out in the garden, wherever you live. I believe the rising level of mental illness today is a direct result of being starved from time in nature. In her book The Well-Gardened Mind, author Sue Stuart-Smith cites that today many people voluntarily spend as much time indoors as prisoners in maximum security. 

Stress, anxiety, poverty, hunger, loneliness, loss of empowerment and purpose…all these things could be improved upon or even eradicated with the help of a garden and a kind, helping hand from those with gardening experience. It gives me hope. 

Maybe gardening and finding community isn’t the answer to everything, but I believe it could be the answer to a lot of things. 

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