If life were naked it would look like this. The kind of naked you have to get up close to see, and the kind of naked that includes hunting for crayfish and skipping stones. Maybe not like much on a map or even from the window of an airplane, but that’s okay. It’s still there.
I was just 7 when I went to live with my grandmother in the summers. We had a spot along a ridge with the nearest neighbor over a mile away. She kept chickens, a garden, cows and horses. The garden was a mix of flowers and food, just how I like it. A place to find butterflies and something to pick and eat. Habitat for people and animals with plenty to go around. Room for forts and loads of bugs and birds.
I’d sometimes make a nest for myself in the garden, lie down and simply spend my time looking up through the plants at the sky and the life buzzing around me. Leaves would tickle my face and there was no end to day dreaming.
Free to roam wherever, I’d leave for most the day and sometimes with a cousin. The usual attire was a bathing suit and towel worn as a scarf because we were bound to spend part of the day in the creek, swim, skip stones and hunt for crayfish. Then we’d forage for berries, plums off the Parmeter’s trees or Gravensteins my grandfather planted. Food was always an after thought until it became an activity.
Somehow, years later and years ago, the stars aligned, odds were in my favor, and I landed here — this very spot (image above). And every year since we make room in the calendar, shaping life so we can make a yearly visit. Like an annual pilgrimage.
That’s just what we do. It fills up my tank. Like being in the garden or going for a run, making time to cook, picnic and be outside. But it’s even bigger than that.
It’s not the place of my childhood because that went away when my grandmother died, but it’s a place to hunt for crayfish, skip stones an forage for berries and other plants I’ve learned along the way.
My guess is you have a place like this too? Or more than one. I certainly do. I find it’s so easy to fall in love with places, wanting to soak them in, build a nest and look up at the sky. That must be why I’m compelled to make places?
When polled, the majority of people attending a workshop I led recently said pretty much the same thing. One of the top reasons to garden was to create spaces, indoors and out. It’s indicative of who we are as people and speaks to the larger benefits of growing things, particularly the things we love.
One, it’s satisfying. Two, it’s good for you. Three, it’s good for our communities. Four, it’s good for the planet. Five, it’s fun.
Gardens are as much about making space as they are about living in them and eating from them. And they’re our most immediate connection to nature. The gateway to the larger, less tended landscape where we can skip stones and hunt for crayfish. I think I’d come unglued without them both.