Years ago, I was working overtime as an architect in New York City. I was working on exciting projects like churches, libraries, and community centers. I had worked my whole life to get where I was, and you would think that I would be ecstatic.
But every day, I was feeling a little bit more disconnected from everything. I felt like a tourist in my own life, like I didn’t belong. And I especially felt disconnected from my food and my body.
I was trying to stay as healthy as I could. But to be honest, I was a little depressed and low energy. Maybe you can relate.
I was grabbing quick, convenient food all the time and rushing right back to my busy day. It was “healthy” food, but it was still convenience food, and I was just grabbing and going without thinking.
On the weekends, I would go to the farmer’s market. I would load up on organic, fresh food. It would keep me happy for a day or two…until I went back to work and forgot about it again.
Then on a crisp day in October, 2008, I bought carrots from one of the local farmers. The carrots were in a bag, and they were covered with a bunch of soil. Who does that? Who sells your food mixed in with a bunch of dirt? It’s so weird, right? Well, this farmer did. He told me that the carrots would stay fresh in the fridge longer and that they would taste sweeter.
The crazy thing is, he was totally right.
These ugly, dirty carrots were a miracle in my mouth. And at that moment, I had a flashback to growing up in my mom’s garden. I was so lucky. She had a gorgeous garden, and I remember discovering carrots underground, digging them up, and pulling them out. Just, “Wow, look at this,” and I ate the carrots before they were even washed. They had little flecks of crunchy soil on them.
How sweet and delicious those carrots from the garden were! As I sampled these carrots in this bag covered in dirt, I remembered my mom’s garden, and I knew that I had to get my hands dirty and start growing some food again.
To this day, I have to tell you, my mom says her memories of her garden are much different than my memories of her garden. She says that my memories are better. She still has this sort of garden shame around what it all looked like, and she was busy being tormented by tomato hornworm caterpillars.
But I saw something different. In my experience as a little kid, her garden was my own private science discovery show. It was full of mysteries to solve. It was where I learned to appreciate the finer things in life. I discovered the exact moment to pick peas for maximum sweetness. I chased butterflies, and I watched new seeds magically emerge from the ground into full-blown plants dripping with fruit. I watched and learned intently, and I asked lots of questions, like all curious kids do.
Years later, there I was, holding this bag of soil and carrots. And I had so many questions for this farmer. I felt so much curiosity about these beautiful-tasting carrots. It was a delightful rediscovery of the feeling of digging up your own carrots.
Suddenly, I felt connected, I felt healthy, and I felt whole again in ways that I hadn’t a long time. And that’s when I knew I was going to grow my own vegetables and herbs. My whole lens on life shifted, and I could never go back to the way life used to be because I had this big realization.
What I realized in that moment is that a garden, it’s not a thing. It’s a lifestyle. But even more than your garden being a lifestyle, it’s a feeling.
It’s not about what you’re actually growing. It’s not about your yield. It’s about who you’re becoming. And that day with the carrots, I suddenly remembered that I was this wild child and a part of nature. I loved the thrill of discovery in the garden. I remembered how great it felt to run barefoot. I wanted that feeling back. I wanted my own private science discovery channel again. I wanted to play in the dirt. I wanted to learn from my favorite teachers: the sun, the soil, the plants, and the insects. Simply making the decision to grow my own food, I already felt connected to the feelings of health, vitality, and most of all, peace.