I lived in a 31-foot RV for nearly five years, and I traveled a lot. Sometimes I lived in the north, sometimes in the south. I've lived west and east and everywhere in between. I've driven all the major highways and more little back roads than I could ever recall, and I garden
Being on the road all the time made it hard to develop roots of my own. It's pretty hard on a garden, too. But every winter, long about February or March, when those seed catalogs start showing up, I simply couldn't help myself. The thought of fresh, flavorful tomatoes, crisp green and purple bush beans, and endless supplies of scallions and garlic danced through my head, and I was smitten.
I think my garden provided the roots and the foundation I couldn’t get any other way at that time in my life. Thousands of miles from friends and family, my life was spread across North America, my garden was my home. Wherever I happened to place my pots and planters, the act of planting, weeding, and harvesting my crops kept me sane and well-fed, both physically and emotionally.
There's something so basic, to me, about gardening. It was and is sustenance and therapy. Early each growing season, I pulled my garden from its bins under my RV and started the cycle anew. The smell of fresh earth, rich with nutrients and potential, I saw and felt my own possibilities. Compost was added, very much the way I took my daily vitamin, ensuring that the necessary materials were available for building and maintaining a healthy life.
Dirty fingernails and facial smudges never deterred me from my task. Neat little paper packets of future crops would lie on my table as I decided what would go where this time around. How deep, how tall, how much sunlight, how much water, compatibility, and competition, they are the stuff of life that ground me to the realities we all experience. Gardening is the parallel by which I run my life. Decisions must be made, options selected and others put aside.
The first green shoots look so vulnerable as I tend and protect them from marauding snails, squirrels, and foraging birds. I don't blame them for wanting what they want, any more than I blame people for their needs or their short-sightedness. It simply requires my attention and dedication, as do all the important things. The shoots became stems and I would search under rocks and debris for worms to import into my pots. Occasional weeds would be watched for just as dishonest and dangerous people must be avoided and removed from our daily routines.
New leaves and young stems strive and reach for the sun as their roots spread down and out, gathering all that they need. In the same way, I must make time for sun and water and enough space to grow, to create my stories and my life. Eventually, flower buds emerge, leaves spread and my stories are written and submitted to publishers around the globe, with hopes for both to receive the pollination they need to continue.
Tiny green tomatoes develop under drying flowers; thin bean strands push buds away to claim their rightful place. Flat garlic and tubular onion stems spike upwards, hiding all their efforts deep within the soil, a gastronomical iceberg. I was tempted to fry up some green tomatoes but I had to be patient as my crop was limited to portable pots and window boxes. Life is full of decisions about immediate and long-term gratification. Self-control and delayed gratification are valuable skills whether gardening or simply living.
My garden feeds me and fulfills me. It tethers me to the natural cycles of growth and death, seasonal changes, and truisms. Every year presents different conditions, different problems, and different rewards. Growth and harvest come in many forms, and I will forever let my garden teach me.
Kate Russell, writer, gardener, and so much more.