The Center for Mind-Body Medicine

Gardening for Life

Gardening for Life

On a beautiful day in June, I arrive home after a stressful day. Thankfully, I still have several hours of daylight left, even though the sun has begun its slow summer downward arc. I change into comfortable clothes and head out to the garden.

As I approach, my senses begin to perk up. There’s a gentle warm breeze. The birds are singing their sweet cacophony. My feet, encased in a pair of old Wellies, step over the fence, and there I am amongst the neatly planted rows of vegetables and flowers. As I work, my breath quickens in the warm air, my heart beats a little faster, and I start to break a sweat.

This time of year, the sweet peas are ripe and ready to be eaten. Their pods are fat and long; I pick one and bite into its crunchy sweetness. The Swiss chard is beautiful, its dark-green heavy leaves growing from large stems of many colors. The robust red strawberries peek up at me from underneath their foliage.

I’m happy to be moving my body and getting some exercise. But there are plenty of other benefits I can derive from being in the garden: joy, peace, attuning to the rhythms of the seasons, an understanding of the elegance and complexity of nature and the interconnectedness of all things, and the simple satisfaction of doing physical work and seeing the results. As human beings, we are part of the natural world; our elaborate efforts to separate ourselves from this world have led to a whole host of illnesses and a sense of isolation.

It’s hard not to be deeply moved when surrounded by apple blossoms abuzz with honeybees or sunflowers pointing their happy faces up to the sky. I feel a profound sense of connection to the earth when I witness the mist rising up over the ridge along with the sun at dawn.

Gardening is a time-honored tradition; it’s in our DNA. Our ancestors grew food for their very survival, and even though we mostly rely on others to provide our food for us, I would suggest that our very survival depends upon it, too.

This post originally appeared in a slightly different version on iceboxfarm.com.

Author: Liz O’Dair


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Liz O'Dair

About Liz O'Dair

Liz O'Dair, MD, MPH, is a family physician and avid gardener who lives and practices in western Massachusetts.

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