Garden while you can. I don’t mean to garden when the weather agrees with you. What I mean is to take your families and friends and get your hands in the dirt while you are still young and able bodied. Do this every chance you get because when you are young, gardening can seem like a burden, an unnecessary chore that doesn’t really need to be done. You have so much else you could be doing. You daydream of going out with your friends or catching the latest movie; however, you are taken to the garden by a parent or grand parent who wants to show you the life that is starting in the tiniest little plants. They want you to experience the peace and serenity that comes from the hard work and dedication it takes to grow your own food. They try to show you what the newly arrived corn looks like, compared to the beans or squash. They show you how to hill up the ground around the potatoes. They make sure the tomato plants have supports that keep them from lying on the ground. But you are young and carefree, not really paying attention. You don’t realize it, but most of all, they really want to spend time with you and a garden is a great place to commune with nature and each other.
You move on with life, having learned just enough to not chop off the corn as it breaks through the ground, and you can easily take out the grass and weeds before they go to seed. You complain as your father gently encourages you to take a little longer and water more slowly so that the life-sustaining moisture soaks into the ground instead of running off. You may even learn not to fertilize the plants directly or too many nutrients all at once will “burn” the plants and you will have to start over. You and your mother often work side by side, chatting about what happened in math class or about your latest crush, but you are tired and sweaty, excited when the work is over.
When you become an adult, you begin to see the value of a garden. You probably miss the time you were able to spend in the garden with your loved ones. You now have your own kids, and you want them to experience the same quality time with you that you once had with grandma and grandpa. Your children’s eyes glaze over as you remember how to best tie up a tomato and you try to instruct them as best you can in the process. You are sad that so much knowledge is lost between what you could have learned as a child and what you remember now. When you are done in the garden, you go inside and call your father and talk for an hour, grilling him on which varieties he prefers to grow and how you can keep the beetles off your beans and the worms off your cabbage. He says he doesn’t have the strength to go into the garden anymore, but he tries his best to tell you things that you know you should have learned as a child. You apologize for complaining and not taking it more seriously when you were young. You also make sure to thank your father for gardening while he could and for loving you enough to take you with him.
Finally, its your turn to take your grandchildren with you into the garden. They are excited when they are very small, happily following you through the rows. They often step on newly planted tomatoes or squash, but you smile and try to gently explain to them what a weed is and what can give us food. They don’t quite understand, but you try to explain anyway, finally giving in and just letting them make mud pies at the edge of the garden. As they become a teenager, they pay less and less attention to your lessons and complain more and more about the heat of the sun and the insects that sting them as they work. But you remember how it was when you were young and wanted nothing more than to finish up your chores so you could go to the nearest shopping center with your friends. You simply let them complain as you try to learn more about their lives and share stories from your past. As they ask why they have to do this, simply tell them to garden while they can because one day, they will regret not learning from those who love them. One day they won’t be able to have a garden to tend anymore. One day, they will be the one to receive a phone call asking for help to decide where the onions should go, how to plant them properly, and when they should be pulled up. They should be thankful for the opportunity to garden with their families. Tell them to garden while you can because sometimes it’s less about hard work and wasting time when “you could just go to the store,” and more about growing something beautiful with those you love. So, I mean this with all my heart: garden while you can.