Grow Hope

By Sarah Wilson,
The Healthy Planet Staff Writer

I kneel, swinging a small pick axe at the ground. If a shovel or garden trowel would work, I’d use one. But they don’t. The lot we purchased is downhill from all the surrounding homes, roads, and apartment complexes. The flooding this causes has ripped away much of the topsoil, leaving behind open wounds of compacted lifeless dirt. These need water management and native plants to start to heal.

The hole I am slowly making is for a petit (for now) wild bergamot. When grown, its whirls of fantastical lavender summer blossoms will invite hummingbirds and bumblebees. In winter, the seeds will feed foraging birds. In spring, the broken stems will be perfect homes for a number of our tiny, gentle native bees.

“The Haven”, as we call this land, isn’t pretty yet in any conventional sense — just a jumble of honeysuckle stumps, downed logs, and rubble. I planted dozens of native species last spring, my first here; those efforts are still largely invisible. But I know they are there, spreading their roots, building the soil life as they do. As the old garden saying goes, the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is today.

We have today.

With everything happening in our world, I can find myself feeling stunned. Like I’m hit by a news tsunami; news I can do nothing about. This is not a feeling I choose to settle into. To fight it, I focus on something my grandmother used to say: If you want to feel better, do something for someone else.

Her words support me as I work to invite diverse life back to this property. She’s with me as I place logs to slow rushing water, as I soak the still-tender seedlings during the dry spells, as I dream about planting next spring. All of this bathes me in hope.

Next time you’re feeling enervated by the human world, I invite you to give yourself a break in the natural one. It’s okay to stop looking at the big picture for a few minutes to take solace in the smaller one.

When we do this, we grow hope. We all need more of that.

Happy Thanksgiving.