Thursday, July 05, 2007


by Ben

I have always liked gardening. One of my first memories is going to my mom and asking her if I need needed to buy my own tools if I wanted to go to farmers college. But here in Uganda, my love of gardening has come alive. It certainly helps to have year-round warm weather and fertile soil. But the act of digging, planting, weeding, creating, and nurturing the land has given me rest in times of chaos.

Anyone who knows me will say I'm a "doer". I need to be productive. Standard ways of relaxation (yoga, meditation/prayer, journaling, sunbathing) don't stimulate me enough-my mind wanders. I need to be slightly active in something to actually free my mind and process my thoughts. And gardening is the perfect medium. Another similar activity is fishing--you're busy baiting the hook, casting and reeling, but it really doesn't take away from personal reflection and processing.

A typical evening in the garden: It's 6:00PM. I get home from work and take a few minutes to play with Ogiko and change into old clothes. I'm emotionally tired from a hectic day. I could escape into a book, movie or food, but I sense the need to process my day. I go to the shed and pick up my hoe. I feel the cool grass under my bare feet as I walk across the yard. I begin digging the ground around the green pepper plants. The ground is soft because I dig it frequently. The soil is black. In the distance I hear a rooster crowing and children playing. The sun is gently setting. I plunge my hand into the loose soil, pick up a handful and squeeze it. It smells rich with nutrients. By now I'm sweating and my muscles are warm. All of the sudden I feel balanced and connected to the earth. I can begin to look back at my day with healthy perspective. Anxiety and stress has been washed away and replaced with a sense of gratitude.

This is a picture of what I pick out of my garden daily (besides the pineapple-this is our first one). In front are two varieties of jalepeno peppers, next to a sprig of basil. To the right are some cucumbers. In the blue bowl are several varieties of tomatoes. Behind the tomatoes are passion fruit, and a pineapple to the left. Between the bowls are a couple of green peppers.

Still to come: onions, peanuts, carrots, broccolli, cassava, eggplant, spinach, and lemon grass. Other fruits include: guava, bannana, mango, and avocado.


eddiie said...

Gardening is not exciting for an African i tend to think.Yes its apart of their daily activities.Am talking about those in the villages..

they know they are supposed to head to the garden every morning which is not something they can say they are proud of..they just do not have a choice.

I wish they did it as a luxury.As in where they just go and put up something without the aspect of time stressing them...

The thing is they have to be ready for both the dry and wet/rainy season..but gardening is a beauty..

When am in my vacation, i do like digging especially when i go to the village.

Josh said...

Ben and Holly,

Hey did I see that flower "box" "trough" thing overflowing? Holly said it was but I'd love to see a picture of it. Miss you guys everyday here. We're praying for you often too.
I've got a little garden box here but nothing compared to that garden of Eden!
Love Erin

Brian said...

We are very jealous. We do have markets where we can buy cheap produce but it would be nice to grow our own.

Anonymous said...

You did such a great job describing why a "chore" like gardening is actually very relaxing. I wholeheartly agree. Playing with the dog is relaxing too, isn't it? (Seeing as I have your old dog!) I'm glad to hear that you find time to recharge.

Shannon said...

I can feel something of the same, coming home from school (though I'm sure circuits don't take that much out of me, especially if they're well insulated (physics joke...)), and walking through the yard to smell my tomato planter, which has just come out with 12 little tomatoes! There's something about the feel of a fertile earth and the fruits that spring from one of the ultimate interfaces: that of the earth, the sky, and man.

Maybe that's why I'm working at being something akin to a geochemist. It's a beautiful thought to imagine that here is one of the places that man originally embraced the the soil substrate itself that sustains him and so much else that he depends on and nourishes (that is, sometimes...).

Beyond any philosophical sure is peaceful. As one of the other people who commented on this blog noted: I sure wish that more people could find the peace in it, as well as the incomparable deliciousness of eating vegetables and herbs that you've nurtured yourself.

Love, Shannon

jim peterson said...

Mary Jo is like you, Ben. She does much processing and finds clarity, solace, peace, strength and joy when her hands are mingling with soil and plants.