Gardening helps military spouse put down roots

Sarah Becking is one of six reader columnists for The News Tribune.
Sarah Becking is one of six reader columnists for The News Tribune. Tacoma

I love to garden.

This affection has been inarticulate and visceral rather than intentional. I know that not everyone feels the same way. Some people even dislike gardening, and some do it for reasons different than mine.

Some work on their garden beds and lawns for appearances. They want their place to give a certain impression to others, or maybe they just don’t want the neighbors complaining. That’s fine for them, but this is the one category of garden attachment that isn’t mine.

Sometimes, for all my efforts, my place still looks odd. Honestly, my neighbors would be right to complain. I love gardening, but that doesn’t mean I’m good at it.

I garden for the sensory pleasure of it: The sun on my shoulders. The fragrance of damp earth as the world awakens after winter. I listen for the textured sound of weed roots being torn free from the soil as nesting birds trill their songs. I watch the daily transformation of a wisteria vine as it turns from a shapely skeleton to tiny buds and then to glorious pendant blooms. And who can resist the flavor of a fresh, homegrown strawberry still warm from the sun?

I garden to connect to the place where I live.

Moving as often as I do, I’m always eager to get roots in the ground. I try to leave any garden of mine at least a little better than I found it. I plant perennials to share beauty long after I’ve moved on. I learn about the area by learning what grows in its climate and soil.

I garden to connect to the people where I live.

If I’m outside in my garden, I’m far more likely to meet neighbors and passersby. Sometimes I strike up conversations with people whose gardens I admire as I walk down the sidewalk. It also connects me with my mother, who imparted her love of flowering plants to me, and with my father-in-law, who grew up on a farm and is a valuable reservoir of vegetable wisdom.

I garden to cooperate with the one who made the plants grow.

I feel more like myself when tending leafy creatures. Caring for them and bringing out their best characteristics satisfies my soul. The persistence of wildflowers resonates with Jesus’ words, as does the way a pruned vine bears larger, healthier fruit. Gardens illustrate spiritual truth exquisitely.

I garden in the hope that my small plot of earth will capture the bright summer light and warmth of blue skies to store for the long winter ahead. Then, I can lie awake at night picturing how a corner of my fence will look with a clematis vine climbing up it.

I used to envision my children loving to eat their greens because they helped grow Swiss chard, with its colorful stems. (They don’t. Neither does my husband, but I’ll keep trying.) Gardening sustains my hope for the future.

I garden to gain perspective on my place in the universe.

It humbles me. I fail as often as I succeed. Pests eat my crop; flowers don’t bloom as planned; the design I pictured grows lopsided, and everyone can see my mistakes. But it also steeps me in wonder. I can read nature’s magnificence better for knowing the tame plants in gardens. And the more I identify wildflowers and forest trees, the more I recognize the limitations of my knowledge.

The microcosm of my garden helps me appreciate the vastness of the biological world. I see how the small actions I take can significantly impact my garden and beyond, while recognizing that all my actions are small in the grand scheme of things.

I garden for love.

Sarah Becking of JBLM is a military spouse, volunteer and one of six reader columnists who write for this page. Email her at SarahLibrary@yahoo.com