Saturday we were planting at the new Growing Warriors garden on the Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) Leestown Campus – in our section of Peacemeal Gardens. It is a community garden plot that makes me joyful to enter. With no lack of space, there are fruit and nut trees, small tool sheds, grapes twining. Oh, the grass needs mowed and some family plots are tended more intently than others, but it is colorful, breezy, and comfortable.
My family had spread a big blanket under a walnut tree (not too close to any gardens!) and picnicked as we worked. A Growing Warriors couple was planting their first garden together. After awhile, my daughter came to me and said, “She has Done This Before – and he Has Not. But . . . I think he is Learning.” This is an observation we actually encourage at our house – people learn by what they do, and usually the more you do something, the better you are. Our little philosophy was born from Kindergartener’s wail, “I can’t do a cartwheel. I’ll never be able to do a cartwheel!”
“Did you try?”
“Yes, I fell!”
“Did you try again?”
“No, I couldn’t do it!”
Thirty-five years old, and I brushed off the three bits of gymnastics that I knew – handed down from my then-similarly-aged mother: the somersault (tuck your head), the headstand (make a good tripod), and the cartwheel (take you time when your feet in the air.) And left her to it. There are now plentiful cartwheels at our house.
Why can so-and-so do his math so fast? He practices. How do you know which bird that is? I spent a lot of time listening, watching, and looking in the field guide. How does Hoot know where the fish are in that enormous lake? He reads about fish, he has fished for sixty years and figured out where fish like to be when its cold, sunny, wet, morning, night, and now (at 65) he bought a fish-finder. We reiterate – if you want to do something, you must try it, you must practice, and you most likely can.
So Vivi was not being rude with in her comment. If you could have heard the emphasis, it would have been very observational – and proud of Robert for learning something new.
At the Jamison Stephens Memorial Garden children came running up to the adults, “So-and-so said girls can’t be in the Army.” All of the adults within earshot grinned. It just so happened that so-and-so’s parent-who-is-a-veteran (all of our families have a veteran) is his mom. Normally, we have agreed to let the children work out there own disagreements, but this time Mom was striding across the plots with purpose in her step.
And, so I’ve been thinking about the equality in the garden. A Japanese foreign exchange student was stunned during a garden project on which I was working. He kept looking around and finally came over and asked, “Is this normal in the United States?”
“Women gardening. In Japan, men garden. Not women.”
Well, I’ll be darned. I know that now, and more so in some areas and some times, the roles of men and women in the garden have been more well-defined, but I can honestly say that as I drive past my neighbors in their gardens, I feel no surprise if it is a man or a woman under the straw hat, using the shovel, or picking the corn. I am delighted when it is a child. And a wonderful thing about Growing Warriors, is that no one who has served in the military would think of not allowing women to do the “heavy” work – or that they may not be able to make difficult decisions. And I love that everyone can ask questions – and wants and is ready to learn.
It is very important for our children to observe us being a community – and then practice, practice, practice with us. I am proud to be building a community with the Growing Warriors and glad in my heart that our children can learn and grow with us. How else do children learn how to be a kind, productive member of an adult community? If you want to do something, you must try it and practice, whether it is being a good citizen or growing your own food. And someday, I will have practiced growing carrots enough to get a good crop!