A little bit of nature action goes a long way to bring balance to family life by Siri Arti
My grandma always used to tell me: “You’re closer to god in a garden than anywhere else on earth.” I was young when she told me that and, although she was passing on sacred wisdom down the female line, I was too busy planning strategies to steal her cigarettes. It was a long time ago.
Years later, I too became an adult and found myself responsible for running a household, building a business and growing my own children. At night, after long, exhausting days, I sought solace in the quiet. With the children asleep, the night garden called to me in a whisper, and I obeyed. Every night, in the darkness, I found my peace again. My night garden activities continued, and I replaced the glow of a cigarette with the glow of a candle flame. In the night garden, I meditated, counted stars and made endless garden fires. But none of these things took the pressure off completely.
Then, one day, I moved into a house with a well-established English garden with flowerbeds galore. Sitting in my night garden one beautiful dusky evening, I heard the familiar voice of my favourite grandma. This time I received the message and the next day I started planting. Tomatoes, artichokes, lettuces, sugar snaps, beetroot, carrots, maize, pak choi and endless herbs. I reinvented myself as the green goddess of the night and the healing began.
Each night, as my children fall asleep, I step into the garden inviting it to embrace me. I softly water the plants, taking time to be present and slow. I take in the aroma of the strawberry plants as the water moves their leaves. I weed the beds, tie up the sugar snaps and make space for the carrots to expand. Sitting on the earth, getting my hands dirty, I whisper to the plants and watch them glow in my care. In the night garden, I am put together again; ready to embrace yet another day.
My night garden escapades got me pondering how to roll the benefits out to my family. My secret nights, playing with soil and growing our salad, made me a far better person. I had become a more patient and grounded parent, my sleep had improved and I was less reactive than normal. Nighttime routines in the house were calmer, and the most exciting part of all was the sheer abundance on our dining table, not to mention the early morning green smoothies, fresh from the garden.
I wanted to integrate my garden into our daily family life and this is how I did it:
- I taught my children what I had learned, and started spending time with them in the garden – during the day, of course – night times remained sacred ‘me time’.
- I took them shopping for plants and allowed them to choose whatever they fancied.
- I shared my excitement with them by showing them the daily changes that took place as if by magic.
- I asked for help when I needed to stake the tomatoes or pick the strawberries, and found that while we work alongside each other, we chatted about our days.
- I added weeding to their weekly chore list and sent them out to collect salad ingredients at night, or sugar snaps for packed lunches in the morning.
- I saw my children learn patience watching vegetables grow, and compassion when a plant didn’t
- make it.
- We started to share our abundance with visitors and neighbours and the children showed pride in choosing collections for them. My family shared the bounty and reaped the benefits of doing so within the community.
- I noticed that we were having more and more ‘gardening moments’ and realised that just as my night garden adventures balanced me, our day garden explorations were balancing my family. I was ecstatic but played it cool. There was a subtle change happening in my family and I planned to give it space to bloom.
I will finish with these sweet words by Alfred Austin:
“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just the body, but also the soul.”