Learning to love nature and passing it on


It’s finally, finally becoming beautiful in Michigan. Last week we had a couple of rain storms and, while things were already beginning to show signs of life, everything in the yard seemed to wake up almost overnight. Our new bike trailer arrived last Monday, and I’d been eyeing the forecast all week long and had big hopes for a perfect weekend outdoors. Ever since we uncovered the patio furniture a couple of weeks ago I’ve been wanting to plant things in all of my mom’s hand-me-down pots, the farmers’ market opened for the season this weekend, and I was eager to get the bikes out. I had a moment towards the end of the week when I wondered if feeling this excited for the weekend was setting myself up for the possibility of disappointment, but I didn’t know how to feel otherwise so I let the feeling pass.

Naturally on Saturday morning Jude wasn’t feeling well. He was sad and whimpery and exhausted all day long. We dragged him to the farmers’ market but had to postpone my plans for a family trip to the greenhouse. Last year Kristin and the kids planted flowers for me as a surprise Mother’s Day gift while I was working in New York. It was the most wonderful treat. This year I got myself a new camera for Mother’s Day so I was looking forward to being more involved in the patio beautification, but I have no gardening knowledge to speak of. My mom is a wonderful gardener; she’s always done beautiful things with plants. But growing up I thought that yard work was the absolute worst. I never learned to enjoy it until we owned a home. Now I’d rather be out weeding or planting or trimming or doing pretty much any kind of work in the yard than doing housework, and I’m amazed.


By 4:45 on Saturday afternoon I’d given up hope that Jude would make a miraculous recovery and we’d have Kristin’s help at the greenhouse (as it turned out he has scarlet fever, which just makes me think of the boy in The Velveteen Rabbit) so I asked Jonah to come with me and decided we’d figure it out somehow. We chose lots of plants, picked up some potting soil, Jonah lingered admiringly over the fairy houses (I promised him that he could get one when Gigi is back in town) and hauled it all back home determined to get started even if the sun was setting. Vivi seemed to have just as much passion for the project as I did. She immediately claimed two purple pinball gomphrena plants as her own (and named them “Rapunzel”) and claimed a pot and went to work.


She got a small trowel from the sandbox and started filling her pot with soil one tiny scoop at a time. When I asked if she wanted me to dump the soil in more quickly she said no, that she had a job and she didn’t usually get a job and she wanted to do it.


Kristin brought Jude out for a bit and weighed in on which plants should go in which pots, Jonah mostly watched but never wandered far from the project, and Vivi and I finished all six pots before the sun set.



Once we’d finished, both Jonah and Vivi were eager to participate in the watering, and the weight of the watering can was of no concern to V. She was determined.


She’s such a wonderful, interesting little soul. In moments she’s 100% princess, in full costume and affect. The character she’s playing (and the name she’s responding to) changes from day to day but the drama is always there. She has so much love for music and dance, but as the weather has grown warmer I’ve been reminded of what a nature lover she is as well. She had no concerns about getting her tutu dirty while gardening. Sometimes I’ll catch her just sitting in the garden or the yard looking at tiny things on the ground.


She’ll pick up roly polys or earthworms and just play with them, and today when she was finished she dug “safety holes” for her worms (in the middle of the yard) and buried them and yelled skyward commanding that the birds not eat them.

While I was weeding I spotted a small toad and scooped it up for her. She was eager to hold it, no jitters at all.


I promise that vintage vase full of dandelions is not a photo prop. She asked for water to put them in and I thought she’d enjoy that one, so I brought it out way before I knew there’d be a toad to photograph.


I taught her to be gentle with it, and when it hopped off of her hand she scooped it back up quickly and easily, again and again. She desperately wanted to keep it, but I told her that I thought it would be happier in the garden. She agreed to let it go but then followed it through the garden and, unable to contain her fascination and love, scooped it up again and ran away.


I just love her expression and body language in that photo. You can almost hear her pleading with me, “But I love him and I want to keep him!” I also can’t believe what a big kid she looks like there. She’s getting so tall all of a sudden.


I’m so glad to have the opportunity to spend time with her outdoors and watch her fall in love with it all. I also love how, as I get older, I notice more and more of my mom emerging in me. She was always the one to scoop up tiny lizards on the beach in Mexico or rescue baby squirrels, and while she has other hobbies now (and less of a yard to care for) so many of my memories of her as a child involve the garden.  So as Mother’s Day approaches this year I’m thinking of all that my mom modeled for me and all that I’m proud to pass on to our kids.

2 thoughts on “Learning to love nature and passing it on

  1. Pingback: The beauty and the chaos | Sushi Grass & Fireflies

  2. Pingback: Vegetable gardening for beginners | Sushi Grass & Fireflies

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