Dirt. There is just nothing like getting your hands in the dirt. And planting something. Nurturing it. Watching it grow.
This year I have rediscovered my love of gardening, of getting my hands in the dirt and nurturing something as it grows.
I enjoyed gardening as a kid. Mom bought a house that already had a garden in the backyard. Strawberries were already growing in part of it, which I was so excited about. And then mom said my sister and I could each have a section to plant what we wanted. I planted a few flowers and corn. I was ecstatic to plant corn. I planted the seeds, watered them, weeded around them as they grew and enjoyed caring for my plants. Then the corn grew, and I got 1 ear of corn. Just one. But it was mine. I grew it. I got to play in the dirt and saw the corn grow. And when it was ready to be plucked off the corn stalk and cooked, mom cooked it for me. I had just gotten my braces on, so eating the corn on the cob was NOT going to happen. So, mom, lovingly cut the corn off my one cob so I could enjoy it. It was the best corn EVER! To this day, it is still the best tasting corn I have ever eaten!
Through my teen years, I found that getting my hands in the dirt, whether it was planting or weeding, was calming. It was therapeutic. And I enjoyed it.
When my husband and I started our life together and moved to our first base in Grand Forks, North Dakota, I wasn’t so sure about gardening. We arrived in February, just after a blizzard and with all the snow (for MONTHS!) I could not picture anything growing. But then spring and summer came, and I finally got to dig my hands back into the dirt. And I planted, flowers. I grew vegetables, just a few that we could pick and eat throughout the summer.
I loved getting in the dirt. I still love getting in the dirt. There is just something relaxing about it. Over the course of my husband’s career in the Air Force, I had opportunities at times, to dig in the dirt and plant my own garden. Not every place we lived, but some of the places.
It has been a while now since I had my own garden, nurtured a plant and watched it grow. The last couple of places we lived, I just didn’t have the time or the energy to plant. But this past spring I was able to rediscover my joy of gardening. We planted around our back yard. I planted in pots on my back patio. I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and boy can I make a mess! I enjoyed the mess! There is just something calming about playing in the dirt and in nurturing a plant as it grows.
The dirt here in Arizona is hard! Really Hard. Digging in it is quite a workout. The dirt needs preparation. And as I helped to plant some of the most recent flowering shrubs, I began to see how gardening, planting and growing applied to our military life all those many years.
Each time we moved to a new place it was a new garden to be planted in, and we were the new growth. The new plants. The new seedlings. All of us ready to be planted and nurtured.
Then as we left places where we had grown, it was the season of pruning, cutting back and transplanting…to make room for the new growth that would come behind us.
At times the soil was very fertile, making it easy to establish our roots and grow strong. Our blooms blossomed abundantly.
Other times the soil was not as friendly or easy to work with. Sometimes the soil was hard, packed dirt, making it difficult to cultivate and grow. Those times and places, we had to work extra hard to get our roots to take hold…. And that meant extra nurturing, a little tenderness and a lot of patience. Though difficult to grow, it was not impossible. The roots took hold and we bloomed.
Life in the military really did reflect the quote “Bloom where you are planted”.
The past few months, as I watered my growing shrubs and flowers and trees, I remembered all the places our family planted our roots… all the places they grew deep…. all the places those roots were shallower. I remembered how we nurtured our family so we could grow and how our Air Force family nurtured us so we could grow. And I thought about the ways we prepared the soil for the next plantings, the new families coming in behind us. My hands in the dirt reminded me of all those times we had to be uprooted and transplanted and how we bloomed.
And I smiled as I thought, that just as the seed blows through the wind and sprouts where it lands, we too did just that. Every move we made. Every community we lived in. We grew where we landed.
Just like my flowers now blooming and bringing smiles to my face and calm to my soul, our Air Force garden of friends and family and memories also brings a smile to my face, a calm to my soul and love to my heart.
And now, in this new season of our life, of our garden, my husband and I are planting roots we hope to grow deep and we plan to bloom here for many years to come.