Looking ahead in life can often mean you miss what’s right in front of you, as one budding gardener learns.
Two years ago, I planted a vegetable garden. Tomatoes and lettuce. A few eggplants and a passionfruit vine. Then I packed my bags and boarded a plane. In those two years, I did more than a dozen work trips. The UK once, the US twice and four destinations in the South Pacific. Trips to Brisbane, Darwin, Adelaide and Melbourne. Three times I flew to Hobart. Each time it was cold and rainy. I expected snow.
Business travel sounds glamorous, and it is. But it takes us away from family and friends. It disconnects us, and not in a good way. The realisation hit me last summer. I made a decision to take a break.
At Christmas, my family came to my house. At Easter, they came back. (“We had such a good time…”) Friends came to stay on weekends. My home became a sanctuary. Not least of all for me. For the first time, I properly tended to my garden. I planted seedlings and waited anxiously to harvest them. I worried over pests and developed a system of juice traps. Snails drowned in beer. Not a bad way to go.
When my tomatoes went wild, I made tomato sauce (a failure) and chutney (a success). When 30kg of eggplant came off three spindly trees, I made baba ganoush, curry and gratin. When the eggplants kept coming, I hosted long lunches. Every dish had something from the garden. My best triumph was my passionfruit jam. “It’s what marmalade aims to be, only better,” said my soft-spoken brother-in-law. High praise indeed.
About that time, I wrote in an intention diary: “Have a really great vegetable garden.” I was secretly modelling myself on urban farmers I knew in Redfern, Sydney and Oakland, California. Goats, bees, coffee bushes and fruit trees. I wanted that too. Plus a career, a dog-eared passport and a relationship with my family and friends.
The realisation hit hard. I was striving again. I had a really great vegetable garden. My yoga teachers had signalled this more than once. Simply be there. Accept this moment, as it is. The same message, over and over again.
In truth, I would love to be self-sufficient. But how realistic is that? If I can feed a table of eight from my garden, does that count? If family and friends find joy in my hospitality, is that enough? Do I need chooks and coffee beans for my garden to be “great”? And when do we stop and accept what is enough?
By staying still, I found one of life’s greatest joys. In just a few square metres of soil. Now I am learning to accept the pleasure in this moment. As it is. One day at a time. Erin O’Dwyer
Erin O’Dwyer is an award-winning freelance journalist based on the NSW South Coast, and is a student of Shadow Yoga.