Ground level view of vegetable and herb garden
by HMN Founder Nancy Peplinsky

“Hope is a seed.”

These words are on my 2021 vision board. If there is one thing we all need for 2021 it’s hope. Hope that health will return to our planet and our lives. Hope that this pandemic will fade and we can begin to rebuild. Hope that we can reconnect and be grateful for what we have now and how we have coped.

I found these words in one of my favorite gardening catalogues because gardening is the ultimate metaphor for life. Every seed embodies the very essence of hope. Hope for the first sign of those little green seedlings poking through the dark soil. Hope for the budding on growing plants reaching for the sun. Hope for a beautiful, healthy harvest of color and richness. Gardening tests your hope and your resilience year after year. I can lose myself in a garden plan with fantasies of purple potatoes and chocolate-colored cherry tomatoes, companion plantings and edible flowers, heirloom varieties, and bountiful yields. Each year, I ponder how to lay out my small garden to optimize opportunity. Planning and organizing begin. I have visions of the ultimate garden, bursting with life. I try to arm myself with fresh soil and compost, fencing to deter the animals, natural solutions for the pests. It’s a joy and a battle, filled with grand ideas and fears of failure.

Planting time is exciting. I hope that I have laid enough of a foundation for success. But I am a lazy gardener. I plant and I hope for the best. I check in, I weed occasionally, I watch for trouble. And it always comes. Sometimes it’s the little rascal chipmunks who steal my edible treasures. Other times it’s the hungry super-deer who can leap my fences in a single bound. The weather holds great potential for trouble. It could be cloudy days or unexpected storms where plants are blown over in thunderstorms. It may be parched, dry days when the garden screams for moisture. Sometimes trouble comes in the form of insidious pests. It’s the tomato hornworms or the squash bugs. Plants are devoured or wither away, in spite of my grand plans and my modest efforts to keep them away. Hope is dashed, frustration appears, determination soon follows. It’s a rollercoaster in my yard.

But with each flower, there is a promise. A promise that a pepper will burst forth, a potato is growing under the dirt, or a zucchini will soon be afoot. I smile at the bees as they circulate through the flowers knowing that they are carriers are hope, too. We do a nature dance together, buzzing and hoping for what the future holds. I rejoice with each garden harvest, marveling at the gorgeous produce, each with unique shape and color, and hope is fulfilled, even when there are disappointments along the way. Gardening builds resilience. We mourn the failures and marvel at the successes. And when the chilly weather comes knocking, we dutifully pack it up and clean it out. We prepare for the ice and snow and to bury our hopes for the long season.

Each year, no matter what challenges occurred the gardener in me rallies again. This year I will try something new. New seed varieties, new tricks of the trade. Packets of hope arrive at my door and I smile. Here we go again. Hope, effort, joy, and resilience. A garden of life indeed.