Our first house — a 200-year-old fire trap of a farmhouse in Vermont – came complete with dreams of growing our own food and (me) making quilts. Then 9/11 happened, and I began thinking about my garden as a form of defense. I thought about the Victory Gardens of yore and how they could once again fortify the country from the unexpected, but I also thought about them as a way to disconnect from a world that seemed to be going more mad than usual.
I’ve had that same feeling of and for disconnection for a good part of this year, though not always because of the news. An unexpected and protracted battle with Meniere’s Disease put my current dream teaching career (and work in general) at risk and seriously challenged my carefully honed skills at managing depression. Living with uncontrolled Meniere’s is walking (or sometimes crawling) through a tunnel with a hangover. It’s being in an airplane as it’s changing altitude too fast. It’s watching the world from the back of a cave, while clinging to the arm the couch.
In the last month, I’ve finally found a medication that to be controlling the “flare ups.” As the brain fog began to clear, my first destination was my garden. The rest of the world is just as chaotic now than it was in those crazy days after 9/11, and I still find the work of weeding to be meditative and healing but not always for the reasons I expect.
The work of weeding can be exhausting, even in Vermont where the summers aren’t that bad. My weeding sessions aren’t that long, and because this is a garden for our family, I can use methods that mean that I don’t have to do it that frequently. Every time I weed or plant, however, I find myself thinking of the people who squat and fields picking and pulling for hours on end, day after day so that Americans can have cheap food. I think of the farmers calculating how to get the most out of every hectare so that they can keep producing food for the rest of us.
When I started growing food, I wanted to disconnect from a society that seemed increasingly violent and irrational. What I found, however, as I weeded the beds and paths, was that I became more connected to humanity.
And as I get done with one bed and move onto the next, salivating in anticipation of the fun part of picking dinner for the night, I find myself fall of respect for so many of the people in this country that will never meet but with whom I am momentarily and blessedly connected.