Hope Is In the Garden

Projects that deliver immediate results give me great satisfaction. This is why I love to weave, throwing the shuttle back and forth as simple thread becomes placemats, kitchen towels, and scarves before my eyes.

But gardening is different. When my husband and I walked from garden to garden carrying three bags of flower bulbs on a blustery day last November, it took faith to believe that the crocus, hyacinth, and iris bulbs we were putting into the cold ground would really turn into flowers. Nothing about those little crocus bulbs even vaguely suggested the glowing purple flowers that emerged last week in the back garden. But having suspended my doubt just long enough to plant the bulbs at the right depth and cover them with dirt, I like to think that I sowed a tiny bit of hope with each—hope that is now embodied in the flowers.

It’s the same story with sugar snap peas, which the seed packet says take 65 days from planting to harvest. More than two months! A few weeks ago, when we carried the pea trellis to a new location in the vegetable garden and pounded the stakes into the frosty earth, even the idea of planting seeds required an ability to delay gratification right at the edge of my capacity. The part of me that wanted an immediate reward for my efforts had to take a back seat to hope and practicality. It was a calculated risk, planting so early, but I took a deep breath, placed that first seed in the earth, covered it carefully, and watered the row when I was done.

I’ve come to view gardening as a way to cultivate an optimistic side of my personality that is often buried under layers of anxiety and doubt. If I want the scent of hyacinths to waft through the yard in March, I need to shelve my resistance and plant those bulbs in November. If I want sugar snap peas to toss into a stir fry in May, the seeds need to be sowed in March, whether I’m feeling hopeful or not. Each deep green shoot that breaks through into the light occurs to me as a rebuttal to the inner voice that says it’s pointless to plant something that might never sprout.

And the truth is that I love overcoming my pessimism and plunging my fingers into the dirt. I love the waiting, the moment of wonder when the first leaves emerge, the weeks of watering, weeding, and nurturing small plants into bigger ones. I love the day when the first sugar snap pea grabs onto the lowest rung of the trellis and begins the long, slow climb to the top. I love watching the edible pods grow fat and succulent as warmer days arrive.

With the iris flowers open now, I find a spark of hope inside me that I realize has been there all along, but it took a garden to call it forth into its own full bloom. And along with the harvest of peas in late May will come more faith and patience to sow with future seeds.

Danna Faulds is the author of six books of poetry and the memoir Into the Heart of Yoga.

© Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health. All rights reserved. To request permission to reprint, please e-mail editor@kripalu.org.