As I watched my girlfriend plant the asparagus roots in the freshly tilled soil this past weekend, the thought finally hit me: I might yet stand a chance.
Seeds are amazingly simple in design for what they are meant to do. Soil, water, warmth and a bit of faith creates a plant that provides food, generates more seeds and nurtures the soil, all while cleaning the air and water. It was the cultivation of a few seeds that gave me a completely new perspective on absolutely everything in my life.
For five years I had been flying by the seat of my pants. Every step might as well have been a dive into an endless pit. Every eight or ten months I found myself living at a new address, sometimes with a new job, sometimes without a job at all. Food wasn’t so much a process of nurturing my body as it was something to stave off hunger. Nights were late and full of television reruns. I was young, I was stupid. Living this way was the design of my generation: Take care of right now, the rest will work itself out.
Last year we moved into our own house. I’ve known my girlfriend for four years and been living with her now for just over two. Before we moved into our current house we started a handful of tomato and eggplant seeds on the windowsill of our rental apartment. I watched fervently, every day, for the first signs of green and the spread of tiny leaves. Our first priority in the new home was transforming the backyard from an empty lot into a formidable garden to grow our collection of tomatoes and eggplant even further. This year, the chives and mint from last year have already come back with the warm spring.
“It’s official,” she said as the asparagus was buried. “We can’t move.”
The lore goes like this: When picking out the variety of asparagus you want to plant, choose carefully; these days it is more of a commitment than most marriages. A typical asparagus root can produce for fifteen years. The economy comes and goes, new leaders are elected every two years — the fact that this asparagus can continuously grow through it all should tell us something. How can we hope for a vibrant, fruitful future when seeds aren’t sown in the short term? Frankly, with the headlines presented to us every day, how can any of us remain optimistic in anything beyond today?
“You’re a saint,” one of our mutual friends told my girlfriend after I had finished with yet another set of my jokes that weren’t so much “bad” as they were “lame.” While I’ll readily defend one of my bad jokes to the core, she was right. Who else but a saint would stick around through my phases of stagnancy and transformation from a cola-guzzling, Hot Pocket–eating, lazy oaf into a real-food advocate, burgeoning rock climber and still-stiff-but-getting-there yoga practitioner who has “not quite hippie” printed on his business cards? She has laid the roots, made the investment, and stuck around even when things haven’t been so great.
Starting a garden begins in the dead of winter with the ordering of seeds. It’s a process that requires a lot of patience and forethought, as you have to choose what you want to eat in May or August while there is still snow on the ground in January. Just as preserving food in the sweltering heat of August isn’t really appreciated until you’re enjoying the taste of your homemade peach preserves in February. Planting those seeds is the path to optimism — to hope. It’s the difference between “take care of right now” and the act of investing today into tomorrow.
We asked experts, authors and readers like you to share their stories of Hope. Every day for the next month, you’ll find new tips for optimism on Gaiam Life, the Stream of Consciousness blog and our social media sites: Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. And don’t miss the GaiamTV.com Hope Film Festival, with FREE films all month long.
D.T. Pennington is a writer living in downtown Denver. He runs Not Quite Hippie — a sustainability blog for the rest of us. In addition to wordsmithing and web-siting, he climbs rocks, grows gardens, eats food and rides bikes.