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War & Peace - A Gardener's Perspective

**This first appeared in the March 27th, 2003 edition of the Santa Fe Greenhouses newsletter—during the Iraq war.

An e-mail came in this week that easily expressed how a lot of Americans are feeling these days, especially those of us who garden. In the face of this war in Iraq the utter helplessness so many of us are experiencing is just too much.

Diane Moreno, who lives in Ilfeld, NM wrote: "I have had the TV going for days and for relief this morning, I stepped outside. Even with all this war business going on, I cannot help but catch loving glimpses at the two stunted, brave tulips blooming at my front door."

She went on to describe her delphinium and the tiny purple flowers on the vinca vine. "It gives you hope for the near future," she wrote.

And then to further this idea, in an interview with Bill Moyers, the author Alice Walker also talked about gardens and how we have to know the "absolute truth in the goodness of the earth."

Whether you're for the war or not, the agitation of late can't be ignored. And it just feels right to turn to the earth and watch how it responds to spring.

We've had more moisture than last year around this time and the plants are feeling the difference. They don't know a war is going on. They don't know that recent events are making people feel like putting their lives on hold. The buds on the lilac bushes are ready to burst. The daffodils are coming up stronger than ever, and the forsythia is just stunning. For those of us who have gardens we can take refuge in this.

Like Diane, I took timeout in my garden recently and besides seeing bulbs poking up, I was heartened to see three species of early spring butterflies flitting about. They don't know, either, that so many of us are fretting. They were going about their butterfly business.

Suddenly, butterflies and purple vinca flowers have become something to aspire to. Their way seems best right now: to go about our lives peacefully in this time of upheaval.

So I stooped to inspect a little closer the new rosemary bushes that I put in last fall. Then I poked my finger into the soil. None of it is frozen anymore. I peered at the ornamental grasses, then at the mullein that showed up a year ago as a weed that I let stay. I saw the new leaves on the iris; I saw some teeny tiny
leaves on the thyme plants in the herb bed I put in last year.

And this is what else I found: I emerged from my first spring scrutinizing thoroughly contented, relaxed. For a good half-hour my body forgot the tension that the headlines cause now. The fretting I've been prone to dissipated. It's hard on us to continuously contain tension, and in the end being in my garden
was truly a miraculous experience, and one that's so easily within
reach for gardeners.

It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, "...nothing can befall me in life--no disgrace, no calamity, which nature cannot repair." For many of us our gardens are as close to nature as we can get on a daily basis.

So take to your gardens like never before. Get down on your hands and knees and squint right up close to those tiny leaf buds. Get your hands dirty. Get mud on your shoes, your cuffs, and share the wonder that Diane experienced in seeing those stunted and brave tulips pushing up through the ground. And for a few minutes completely forget this is a time of war.

Cindy Bellinger http://www.cindybellinger.com/

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