Gardening Shame

I wrote a letter to my friend, Sarah, last week and told her I’m suffering from Gardening Shame. There are weeds in every box, and I haven’t re-mulched the paths, so black tarp shows through like the garden’s underwear. My tomato plants won’t take to the soil and stand limp. Zoysia grass creeps in and blurs the border lines.

“If you saw it now, I’d go hide somewhere,” I told her.

Visitors to the garden make me cringe the way I do when my siblings look over my shoulder at my writing. I want onlookers to see perfection –- at least, my best attempt at it. But that’s a problem when I’ve only got a rectangle of clay soil right on our property line, just a few feet from the neighbor’s living room window.

I heard about Gardening Shame from Hannah Anderson, who writes and plants things like I do.

 “The thing about gardening – and I think writing, too – is that it can’t be hidden away,” she said in an episode of my favorite podcast. “You garden out in the open; you garden where other people can see your work.”[i]

Writing to Sarah, I found myself wishing I had a garden in the fields outside Port William with all Kentucky stretched before me, my hands in the soil under the sky. For one, no passersby could see my weeds, and two, I get tired of neighbors and traffic.

But then I came at it from a different angle (a redeemed one, I think), and I counted this as joy: that I get to tend what I’ve been given. Nothing more, and no less.

So I stood up from writing that fussy letter, and I got to work.

I watched Joel put his hands to the red tiller and wrestle fresh clumps of earth to the surface. I pulled weeds. I hammered down stakes and sowed more seeds. Instead of swooning over a dry-stack stone wall I could never afford, I straightened the plywood borders I do have.

Each day I do a little more, harnessing and cultivating what lies inside these four corners, and grateful to serve a God who, day by day, turns what’s scanty and shameful into a garden of grace.

[i] Hannah Anderson. The Habit Podcast. The Rabbit Room Podcast Network, 2021, March 15.

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