To me, one of the most profound gifts of gardening is the way it teaches us to appreciate and love our industriousness, and the industriousness of the world around us. In the modern world, people are often separated from the fruits of their labors. We work mostly for abstract things: paying bills, buying groceries, saving for retirement. It is easy to feel a lack of control and, perhaps, a lack of appreciation for what our bodies can give us. People remedy this feeling in different ways. I like to take the occasional camping trip out to the boonies, where I can sleep in the forest and build a fire for warmth—self-reliant and self-sufficient for the most part. During the work week, I commune with my body by exercising and, in the warmer months, I dabbled in gardening. It’s vital to have these unfiltered, physical moments in the midst of a life filled with work, screens, and virtual realities. After focusing ad nauseum on bills and deadlines, I like creating something that has nothing to do with money or prestige.
Gardening, in particular, is a humble hobby. It requires pushing your hands into the dirt over and over again, ruining blue jeans, and getting freckled in the sun. There’s not much money to be made in gardening—most of us make a living doing something else. But gardening does produce a reward—one that is intimately tied to the work gardeners do with their bodies. After months of planning, planting, digging, weeding, beautifying, feeding, and carefully observing their plants, gardeners can enjoy a bountiful and well-deserved harvest. I’m not the best gardener out there, but I know how it feels to hold something homegrown in my hands, to savor its deliciousness and the modest beauty of eating a food that I created. No, it didn’t come from a box or a bag I picked up at the super market, I didn’t buy it with my paycheck, and I know exactly what kind of work went into making it. This knowledge always fosters within me a sense that the world still works right, despite how often it seems to be falling apart. Beneath the politics and grievances and daily moments of exhaustion, there is still an underlying system in which a seed that is planted into the ground can grow into something sustainable.
This Thanksgiving, give thanks to your own industriousness by adding some homegrown fixings to your dinner spread. Speaking from experience, I can say beyond a doubt that fresh cranberries are even better than the slimy (but delicious) canned version. And potatoes plucked fresh from the earth taste spectacular mashed with butter. Garden fresh-food is best paired with conversations about simple truths, namely: money and work and the things we each have to do to put a roof over our heads and food in our mouths are not the only parts of life that matter. We have ourselves, our families, and our love—and that matters more, maybe even most.