growing world

The Earth is a growing place! (Illustration © by Jane Gates)

I live in water-starved Southern California. Today, while walking my dogs around the neighborhood, I noticed almost everyone still had a big front lawn and had their sprinklers on despite the fact we are in an extraordinary drought and landscape irrigation is allowed only two days a week – today NOT being one of them. It made me wonder about sanity and the sustainable garden. So why is it we tend to ignore the things we don’t want to hear or find inconvenient and choose to believe they are either not true or inconvenient?

It seems that all our “time-saving” technology has filled every crevice in our lives and we are busy, busy, busy. Too busy to attend to the events going on around us. Too overwhelmed to deal with anything but the immediate demands and dramas of our every day. We want so many things and they all seem to have a never-ending parade of “have-to’s” to surmount before we can even hope to consider how to get them. We are rushed, stressed, impatient and out of time. And so we live each day – until the results of those bigger issues we had no time for crash through our walls of denial and collapse the undeniable consequences down upon us.

I could be talking about destroying the homes and quality of lives of thousands of people to build mines, trains, pipelines, malls or other projects to fire the economy, generate profits and make more provisions to fill up already overly-subscribed lives. I could be talking about water, sustainable living and gardening. Or I could be talking about plenty of other topics. (Obviously, in this case I am focusing on the gardening part!)

But regardless of context, maybe we need to do some serious thinking, because there seem to be fewer and fewer happy, fulfilled people around. Are you fortunate enough to be one of the few? Could there be room for more peace and balance in your lifestyle? Are we making ourselves insane with all our rushing around looking for what might be right in front of us?

As the human race seems to be spinning off from the planet in a mad grab for more and more of everything, particularly money and the illusion of control, we seem to be building bigger and better systems of devastation to cure the problems caused by the previous systems we created. If you take the time to wander through nature – even just around your own property – you can observe that nature has a number of impressive systems that have been around for millions of years and are still working efficiently. Most impressive of all is how all things are connected creating natural, interdependent systems of their own. Perhaps it is our human tendency to see ourselves as detached centers of the universe, immersed in daily dramas that lead us to be blind to the bigger picture and the consequences of our actions. (Or better, we can later enjoy finding others to blame for where we find ourselves.) But so far, all our scrambling seems to have created more depression, defensiveness and anxiety, ill health, toxins and exhaustion, and mass solutions that keep us trying to do more, be more and get more.

My solution is to look at the bigger picture. It isn’t hard. Just walk out your door. Wander out into nature and see how the Powers-That-Be handle life. It isn’t always kind and gentle, but it is balanced, harmonious and efficient. And there is some astonishing beauty to be found everywhere if you just look for it.

If you have even a little piece of property, you can build a garden that welcomes you into that magical embrace of beauty whenever you want to get away from the stress. You can turn your garden into a healing space that works with Mother Nature to cure your discomforts. All you need to do is respect that all things are connected; that sustainability is about connecting into the ‘bigger picture’. And if you do it right, with good design guidelines and planned to dovetail with your lifestyle, it can even become your own piece of living art – something gorgeous to share with friends and neighbors.

If this isn’t enough to convince you, try this: gardening sustainably will reduce your utility bills, discourage pests, recycle junk that is just taking up space, reduce the labor expended in maintenance, cost less to build and care for, help you feel stronger and healthier physically, mentally and spiritually, and allow you to plug into the connectivity of life while helping out the environment that supports us and all life on this planet. You can create a genuine vacation spot, invite in Mother Nature’s built-in free therapists, and delight in beauty every time you step out your door.

In a world filled with too much business, stress and constant demands, consider unplugging from the technology and all the outside expectations and plug into nature. Use your property for something that will work FOR you. Grow food, play outdoors, watch colorful plants bloom, share your time with friends, family, neighbors and wildlife by building your own sustainable garden. Say “no” to the land grabs, toxcitity and look to the simpler solutions that have worked so well in nature for millions of years. Start small at home. Then, when you feel energized and strong, you might want to spread the message to all those frantic, world-gouging projects out there that seem to have derailed from respect for all the unique and varied lives that connect together to create harmony. Creating this kind of landscape/garden may start out a little, self-serving, but it is good for you and your surroundings. And if everyone started respecting how connected we all are, maybe we could change this angry, blundering, toxic world into the awesome place it already is – one garden at a time.