I am just a novice gardener, but my hopes and dreams have been entangled in plants for quite some time.
I moved to Volcano, Hawaii this year after visiting twice, I fell in love with the moss, the trees, the sky, I live an hour away from the beach and the beach that is there is hot and rugged. It’s Hawaii, but it’s like a different world from the Honolulu hometown I grew up in during the 1980s. Anyways, it’s a great place to garden, up on a mountain, it doesn’t frost, but it does get much colder than Honolulu. There are almost a dozen different climate types in Hawaii, from snow to cool on Mana Kea, hot and arid in Kona, wet yet cool here in Volcano, wet and hot in Hilo ext.
I’ve got a problem, with my daughter, she never feels loved enough by me. I’ve been around her almost everyday since she was born at home. I worked a bit with her, but didn’t leave her, I took her with me. I don’t know why she is a cup that can’t be filled, but that’s how it’s always been with us. For years I carried my daughter in a carrier, I did many of the things reccomended to avoid this kind of a problem, yet the problem remains. I don’t know if it’s something to be fixed or just the way our life will be. I don’t know if she needs to find self love in her own heart or something I don’t know about, but changing the way I try to let her know I love her hasn’t helped so far. She clings and clings and clings and yet is never fuller of love and affection. My father, my sister, my husband, her God father, her God mother help me lover her, yet it’s not enough, not nearly enough for her. I don’t understand it, I’m not uncaring, not unnoticing, yet I have no solution so far.
It’s gotten so bad between us at times that I can’t feel love for her, yet I do love her. I told her my truth, that I do and will always love her, but when I am very angry or frustrated I can’t feel the love that is still there in my heart.
Last summer I planted two cherry tomato vines, this summer it fed my daughter nearly everyday, we went out together and picked the ripe yellow and red tomatoes. It was a handfull of tomatoes, but they are expensive here and they have always been her favorite food. The vines were overgrown and the fruit was hitting the floor in a tangles mess, caught up with spiky Hawaiian rasberry vines in a way that was difficult to protect from pests. At night I took many semislugs infected with rat lung paracite off the tomato vines and besides that my elderly father couldn’t be expected to harvest from the floor height vines when I wasn’t around during our winter trip. So, I decided to remove the tomato vines, with a very heavy heart.
When I placed the vines on a trellis I was planning to throw out I noticed the fruit still ripened, offering us more sustinance even after death, it touched me in a deep way.
Maybe like Michael Pollen I am just projecting imagined emotions onto plants, but maybe that’s fine.
I have trouble expressing deep emotions, noticing them, I am broken in many ways.
I don’t know exactly how my feelings, that I should have for my loved ones, became instead invested in plants, that logically don’t provide for me. I’m not a farmer, nor a famous gardener, nor is my garden even well kept or particularly beautiful… yet it’s where my heart lives.
My dad and my sister prefer dogs to people, dogs don’t hurt people often, they don’t critizise, they don’t usually leave, I get it…
But for me it’s plants.
I have a husband, a daughter, a baby son, a very helpful sister, a generous yet shy father, but it’s difficult to be excited about them to share my heart with them. It’s easy for me to do that with plants. I can care about the sprouts, be excited by seeds germinating, be in love with moss, find common ground with the trees, feel amazed by the ferns here, supposedly over a thousand years old. Loving plants has become as natural as breathing and loving people as hard as calculus.
I recognize how perverse that is for a social species individual and inopportune for a parent and spouse. Yet that’s the way my heart is.
So, I have a problem, we all have problems right?
I was in the garden trying to take out all the weeds this summer, when my sister who was baby sitting for me, asked me “what are you hopping to achieve, what’s the end goal?”
And it bothered me, it burrowed into and occupied my mind all summer and until this day I haven’t sorted it out or been able to stop trying to sort it out.
I suppose I should live a people first life, “love people, use things,” but that wasn’t how I was raised, I’m not that framiliar with doing that.
I try to be a good mother, but it’s not very enjoyable, I don’t feel unconditional love towards my violent, needy daughter very often, but one time when I did was when we picked tomatoes together during the summer this year.
I have planted the seeds of our tomatoes hoping they will grow well so we can pick them again next summer, but I know I should also find a way to actually love my daughter more often.
The slugs in my area have a paracite deadly to kids, my whole adult family hunted them for two weeks in June and July to try to make the garden safer for my kids to eat out of… I wanted my daughter to know the connection between nature and food at a deep level, not an intellectual one, yet after two weeks of not sleeping after coming back from hunting my worst phobia I didn’t really know if it was all worth it or not.
Months later there are still some slugs, but nature is on my side, wasps have moved in, lizards, skinks, and frogs are on the way that can all help eat the small slugs, we even found one snake here in Hawaii… a blind snake. Thought there weren’t any, but was wrong. Found a hammerhead worm, never knew that existed, walking down our pathway… in summary nature is headed back to balance where there won’t be a ton of slugs on our property anymore like there were this year (that’s my current hope and thought anyways). Even when there are less, there will be that low, yet horrible risk that if my unruly daughter does eat a slug, she will most likely contract the rat lung paracite that there is no cure for and is almost always deadly in children… so how can I risk her life because I want her to eat fresh veggies from our garden?
I have a hard time explaining that to myself.
Officials say washing produce is enough, yet people are getting the paracite without knowing how, that worries me… slime has low amounts of the disease, slime that could be anywhere outside… right on our door, our patio, in our kitchen once, on our welcome mat irronicly (slugs are unwelcome on our welcome mat)… it’s very scary not knowing how some people get sick, it’s scary that if my child eats a slug she will almost certainly get the paracite and almost certainly die, so why not find something else to do?
I don’t have a rational answer for that. Not really.
I don’t want to live in fear, I don’t want to not do the thing next year that gave me the most happinest this year, I don’t want to pay the high price of cherry tomatoes every week, I don’t want to give up my dream of having an amazing permaculture garden so soon or so easily. Those are part of why, but I think the real why is deeper and harder to define.
I think gardening is my ikigai, reason for being. I don’t know why it isn’t raising my kids, or writing, which I also enjoy.
Something about waking up and seeing what’s sprouted, watering the plants I want, slowly removing the weeds respectfully, dreaming of future pathways and microgardens, beats writing and taking care of my kids.
It seems messed up, and it’s a little beyond my comprehension or explanation, yet I think it’s the truth.
Raising my kids is significant to me, yet to be honest my sister or father could do as good a job as I could and my husband (if we could afford him to stop working) could do better. I’m not very good at raising them overall. I keep them safe, I love them, I feed them, I stimulate their minds, but it could be done equally well or better by others if I had others available.
Gardening is something less significant, yet it can only be done by me. My gardening can only be done by me, it’s kind of a living sculpture, a botanical painting of my soul. What I do for my kids may be my legacy, may affect the world, and my decendents more, yet it’s almost not at all personal, it’s me supporting their natural growth, it’s them being them. Gardening is me being me. Maybe someday I will change, maybe people will fascinate and inspire me someday, but right now they really don’t.
Right now gardening is my ikigai, it’s the reason I am passionate about life instead of just resigned to the never ending laundry, dishes and discipline I couldn’t really care much about eventhough I have tried for years to find satisfaction and meaning in service.
So, my daughter’s awesome school is featuring love (aloha) as the value of this month and for me love is picking cherry tomatoes together, washing them really well and watching my daughter enjoy her favorite food that the land gave to us so generously. I hope it happens again next year.
I hope some year in the furture I will say that my daughter is at peace, because of herself or something I changed or that we have too many things we do where I feel unconditional love towards her to even write about, but this year, it’s picking tomatoes. That’s the only time I’ve felt that way with her and something so precious to me that I’m now overly emotional about tomatoes in general. Tomatoes have become my symbol of unconditional love.
I was planning to discuss growing up in a horde of trash, broken items and broken dreams and how that might have affected my ability to love people or not love them… but perhaps that will be another time. I wanted to put down my feelings about the tomatoes. I never want to forget the smile on my daughter’s face, how I faced my phobias for what seemed right, the sweet taste of the tomatoes, the shared sunlight, the shared happiness that we don’t always have together. I never want to forget that there are moments when I love my daughter with all my heart as much as I’m “supposed to” be able to do/would like to do, all the time. 🍅