Saturday, February 20, 2016

Master (Gardener) Class

Yesterday was the first day of school for the Master Gardener certification course I am taking this spring. Although we learned a lot about botany in this first class, it was also a chance for people to do the typical round-robin style introductions to the group so we could all get to know each other.

I was surprised how many people talked about their beginning attempts at gardening, and, like me, most began digging in the dirt well before the age of 10. It seems the urge to grow things is pretty much a pre-existing condition for a certain segment of the population. I also noticed that for every person who started gardening in childhood, the urge to plant and grow hit them regardless of where they lived -- whether that was in New York City or the wilds of Montana. 

Stories of attempts to grow everything from corn to pansies in city yards were discussed laughingly by the urban-born folks, and those born in similar circumstances nodded their heads vigorously in understanding as these stories were shared. Alongside the gardening stories were also tales of career successes in places like the Silicon Valley, San Francisco, and Phoenix, and the flight from them as acreage was purchased and lifelong dreams were chased down and caught (for some reason, dreams always have to be chased to some extent, they are never handed freely to us). People talked about what ultimately mattered most to them: To farm. To grow. To become what they always knew they were supposed to be.

It's interesting the many bends and turns that the road to our destiny takes us, and what we sometimes have to do first in order to eventually get to where we know we need to be. And I can't help but wonder how many others were "called" to this life, but for whatever reason, where unable to make it here. Are they still in the city, unable to leave because of costs, burdens and responsibilities? Or just fear of the unfamiliar? It's a poignant thing to look at where you are now and realize others may have tried and failed to find their way to where you stand, losing the trail of breadcrumbs only to end up back where they started, in an unending circle.

I'm sure there is another corollary to this; a tale of a rural-born "out in the sticks" kind of kid who, from birth, longed for the city -- the art museums, symphony halls, late night jazz clubs, and hustle and bustle on the sidewalk. I hope those folks eventually "home" as well, in all the great cities of the world. 

For me, after so many years of feeling passionate about growing things both edible and admirable, it felt good to be in a roomful of about 40 others who felt exactly like I did -- the lucky ones who made it out of what we thought of as a kind of Egypt, into the Land of Milk and Honey.  That's the find your people, find your environment, and run down that dream, capture it and lock it down in a half-Nelson, whatever it is and whatever its locale.

I am looking forward to learning not only more about farming and gardening, but also about these people, as new lives take shape and new skills are mastered. Because once the dream is captured you start a whole new chapter, with its own challenges, changes and problems. The dream come true is not the ending of the story book, but rather the beginning.


  1. You do meet a lot of interesting people in MG. something I noticed early on in MG was how gardening was a healing respite for almost everyone in the room. It seemed a lot of people ended up there after needing and finding a productive and therapeutic escape after/while working through something very difficult.
    I got into trouble at my class because my favorite antique stores were a block away. So after lunch, I'd usually walk back in with a box or two! Enjoy the classes and the new group!

    1. Thanks! Many people I met were escaping high stress lives, so you are absolutely correct. We have NOTHING other than a high school within walking distance of the Extension office, so I (or rather my credit card) is safe haha.

  2. It's interesting just how different we all are. I had never enjoyed digging in the dirt. I never liked what it brought up either, in terms of spiders or worms. And being chased by mosquitoes and bees. Gardening never appealed to me, no matter how many times I tried to learn to like it.

    Thank goodness for people who love it! My husband enjoys his garden - it is his stress relief. And I enjoy the produce. We also live near several small farms, so there is plenty of locally grown produce.

    My own dreams are different. I was lucky enough to work in a field I loved, and also fortunate to be able to take early retirement because of a government pension.

    My passion is dog agility. I started later in life, but I am chasing down that dream and tackling it. I have found my people and when I am with them, I feel most alive.

    I absolutely love your analogy of beginning a new chapter in life and creating new stories. And yes, it is not the end but an exciting new beginning.

  3. I should add that I'm not some prissy girl afraid to get dirty. I love nature and most of my vacations have been hiking in National and State parks. I visit the local parks almost daily and my favorite shoes are hiking boots. We live on a wooded lot because I love being surrounded by trees.

    My father once asked my why a nature girl like me didn't like yard work or gardening. All I could say was that I had no idea.

    My passions are dogs, nature and books (I'm a retired librarian).

    1. You we're born with what we're born with and are all very different. Growing up in Southern California, there were few pests, no mosquitos, and it was a huge deal if we found a worm in the dirt! So gardening had no "yuck" factor at all. Imagine growing up someplace like Hawaii, where all manner of creepy creatures inhabited the dirt, the air and even the hiking trails! I might have ended up a city girl. So yes, I totally get that you appreciate growing/farming from a little more of a distance. And how cool about the dog agility! That kind of thing amazes me, when I see the relationship between dog and trainer. Inspiring.