Gardens and government both take work

Published 1:22 pm Saturday, July 20, 2019


Life with a Smile

I have been neglecting my garden this summer. I admit it. Between heat and work and kids, my garden maintenance has been decidedly lackluster and the weeds have taken full advantage. Although the strawberries have run pleasantly amok, while I wasn’t looking, the dandelions and crabgrass were equally elated by my dereliction of duty, and have been steadily gaining ground on the green beans.

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This weekend I spent a couple hours reestablishing a perimeter. When I can carve out the time, I actually really like weeding. It’s very satisfying. Your progress is readily visible and can be easily measured. The finished result is beautiful. And there’s something thoroughly enjoyable about sitting on the ground, rooting around in the dirt. The presence sun-warmed strawberries at arm’s reach only adds to the pleasure.

A wiser person than I might have worn sunscreen before spending two hours outside at midday, but luckily dirt makes a moderately good protective barrier when it has combined with sweat to form a paste on one’s legs.

I realize that my afternoon’s work was merely a skirmish in a much larger war. A war that, if I’m being honest, I am probably going to lose. But it felt good to make the effort, to take that small stand and to see at least a momentary result in the clean lines of dirt surrounding my garden rows.

Earlier that same day, prior to my battle with the weeds, I spent a couple hours doing “issues canvasing” with a local political group. The experience was not dissimilar to my time in the garden. Both were hot, sweaty endeavors that felt important, even if their scope was limited.

We’ve been neglecting our democracy and the weeds have taken full advantage. If you are inclined to argue that point, just look at voter turnout in the last election. The first step to trying to re-engage an electorate is to understand what motivates them. Hence, issues canvasing where you knock on doors and ask open-ended questions about what issues matter most to people.

It was my first time out and it was hard work. There was a lot of walking, and a lot of people who weren’t home or didn’t really want to talk to the perky stranger who showed up on their front step at 11 on a Saturday morning. But there’s a lot of satisfaction, too, to be derived from conversation — from sharing experiences, listening to perspectives and seeking connections. It is good for the soul to hear a complete stranger voice the same frustrations you carry, and share the same fervent desire for change and improvement.

Canvasing your hometown is a small skirmish in a much larger fight — that reality is not lost on me. I don’t know if it will make a difference, but I believe that it can. Gardens and government both take work. I believe the effort is worthwhile.