“I do it for the love of doing it.” Most gardeners could say this about their gardening. There is something so rewarding about connecting with the earth, with nature. I love giving effort toward the growth of something outside of myself. It is a generous act, gardening is. A beautiful yard and garden reward us with beautiful colours and scents, with fresh and tasty home-grown food, with aesthetic and inviting spaces in which to hold a conversation, a party or a silent moment with oneself. Just look around at all of the benefits that gardening affords you….
Then look within. According to Richard Louv, author of The Nature Principle(2011), this “reconnection to the natural world is fundamental to human health, well-being, spirit and survival.” If you’ve ever had a hankering to do some weeding, you likely know what I am speaking of; after several moments of removing that invasive milk thistle along the fence at the back of your property, there comes a sense of purpose, of existential accomplishment. Louv would say that this is not only due to the visual effect of having pulled some ugly weeds, but because of the dose of “Vitamin N (for nature)” that it gave you. It is a “visceral and immediately useful” connection.
Unbeknownst to you, gardening may be transforming your relationships, too. Research out of University of Rochester, NY reports that “exposure to [the natural environment] leads people to nurture close relationships with fellow human beings, to value community, and to be more generous with money.” (See video below) Next time you plan to head outside, ask your partner or your child to join you. Not only will the work go at least twice as fast, but you will both benefit from the mind/body/nature connections inherent in the ‘nature principle.’
There is no question that working the earth is good for it, and it may be even better for us. As we choose to spend time outside, away from the technology-monopolized spaces of the indoors, we are enriched; we are reminded that living things rely on other living things for their life, and we locate ourselves in that narrative. As a result our yards, our homes, our communities become more thriving and fascinating places to dwell. We may do it for the love of doing it, but we are rewarded with much more.