The Wisdom of the Urban Gardener

Much of her life, my friend Ruthy lived in Saint Paul. She’s passed on now, yet every spring I think of her as the time for planting approaches. I know that when I get down close to the earth and feel the soil with my hands, there’s a sense of connectedness to the living universe that opens my heart as nothing else can.

Many years ago when I resided in the Highland Park area I used to visit her garden. She was not only a master gardener but a wise woman. “A garden teaches you both patience and acceptance,” my friend Ruthy sighed at one point in our conversation. “You put a seed in the ground one morning in the spring and then you wait for it to produce a bloom. Finally a bud comes out and you watch daily for it to open. Then, unexpectedly, overnight a squirrel eats it!”

That was just one example of a life lesson in patience and acceptance learned in the garden.

Ruthy found that, no matter what the season, a garden teaches spontaneity and nonattachment. “You have to be able to respond to what’s there and to the reality that nothing is permanent—a garden teaches you that you need to get rid of stuff that isn’t right for you; it teaches you about birth and death and about what’s important in between,” she said.

Our conversation for that day was ending. As I waved goodbye and started to walk away, Ruthy had one more bit of garden wisdom to share.

“Blooming is important,” she continued. “Coming to fruition is important.” And a garden teaches us about audacity, Ruthy explained. “Seeds will blow in from who knows where and they’ll shoot out of the ground and start to bloom. That’s taught me to put my own two feet on the ground and grow into a flower that blooms—and to be audacious about it.”

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