This weekend my family spent some time developing our green thumb (to what degree we can) and getting in sync with Mother Nature. We built a wooden garden box, dug around in the old flower beds and planted some flowers. Having grown up in rural Texas, these activities were things that I’ve always taken for granted; but now I’m starting to realize all over again and perhaps in a new way the importance that experiencing our natural world can have.
One of the most exciting things that we did was discovering that our flower bed, which is rich in plant detritus, fertile black soils and covered in mulch is also home to lots of skinny, brown worms. My son Roman is extremely curious about bugs and we try to quench his thirst for bug experiences every time we get the chance. He was amazed by the squirming, squiggly little worms that we found and he wasn’t afraid to touch them. He immediately identified the worms as snakes (everything that resembles the letter “S” is a snake) and he poked a little stick at the worm. My wife and I did our best to explain to our 2 year old boy that worms live in the soil and they like a cool, wet, soil-covered home. We’re never sure how he interprets our explanations, but hopefully he got it.
Earlier in the back yard, another important lesson occurred. We learned about the importance of plants and how they have feelings too. I was in the middle of constructing our wooden garden box, hammering nails and the like when I noticed that Roman was toting around a small green tomato plant that my wife had just picked up at the store, which will presumably be a part of the garden box. He carried it around in the yard for a while. When I went over to talk to him about the plant, he looked at it, considering what I’d said, and then proceeded to toss it on the ground. Now you have to realize that when a 2-year old boy tosses things, they’re not making any sort of statement. They frequently throw anything they can get their hands on, and the only interpretation that I make is that he’s done with whatever he just pitched onto the ground.
But I want my son to fully understand the importance and value of all life. I realize that in life “bad” things happen and not all of the things that exist or the events that occur are considered desirable. But on some level there is a deeper sense of perfection and divinity in everything. So when Roman threw the plant down I immediately picked it up and told him that tossing the plant down on the ground wasn’t good for it and harmed it, especially when some of its soil came loose and fell out of the cardboard pot.
Some people might think that this is silly to even discuss and that it makes no difference. And perhaps they are right – but I can’t believe that. I keep thinking that every small lesson like this one needs to be met head on with a great amount of thought, consideration, empathy and understanding. I need to believe that all these little lessons that my son and I will experience together will add up to him having some character and humanity that seems to be lacking more and more every day in our world.
At any rate, we try to have fun and learn something too! We also did some other fun activities outdoors. My wife painted a bird house with really bright colors. It will probably be more for decoration though. The finch family that has made our back porch their home for 2+ years have returned, but they prefer building their own nest of sticks and other debris in the corner of the porch near the ceiling.
And a few days ago we also added a plum tree near our backyard peach tree. I’m hoping we have as much luck with the plum tree as we’ve had with the peach tree. Trees can be finicky about where they live or if they are going to live at all, and to me, they are a test of one’s gardening skills. They require a lot of attention when they’re young, but are really rewarding once they’re bigger. So here’s to peaches, plums and whatever else grows in our not-yet-planted garden…