By Therese Ciesinski, In The Dirt newsletter editor
For this In The Dirt newsletter, my boss asked that I write an article with a “wow” factor. I’ve been wrestling with the idea ever since. What is wow? Who decides? My ‘wow!’ might be your ‘meh’. The Internet, like the Great Oz, is supposed to know. So I searched the web for gardening news, research, breakthroughs, anything.
Here’s one: Scientists in Sweden created a “cyborg” rose by growing wires in its vascular system and running electricity thorough them. Okay, wow, I guess. What does this have to do with the way you or I garden?
Online, the newest, fastest, biggest, loudest wows fight for clicks, and when everything is wow, nothing is. My wows live in the garden. They change with the light, the weather, the month, and my mood. Some wows I experience year after year, but in the garden wows aren’t diminished by repetition. There’s always a wow when I need one.
We garden for the horticultural payoff, of course: beefsteak tomatoes, or ‘New Dawn’ roses. But we also garden for the wow. For those moments of what the dictionary calls “feelings of surprise mixed with admiration.” Wonder.
Like when a sliver of green from a seed you planted pushes the soil aside, and though you’ve seen it a thousand times, that abracadabra from dry husk to stocky seedling… well, shut the lid on me if that ever gets old.
Or hearing spring in the song of peepers looking for love, fragile whistles rising from cold mud. Watching a praying mantis turn its head – it’s the only insect that can rotate its head 180° – and with curiosity but no fear, look right at you.
Or the first time you taste fruit that you grew. You pluck that strawberry or peach from its stem. The fruit is warm because there’s sun inside and then the juices hit each sweet salt bitter sour umami receptor on your tongue and nothing in your life up to now has ever tasted this incredible.
Gardeners grow wonder. And when you can’t see the wonder, it’s time to put the tools in the shed and call it a life. Because searching for wonder is like searching for air. It’s in every leaf, petal, earthworm, bee’s wing, soil particle and pollen grain. No wow is too small not to stop, look, and listen. This Christmas, I wish you wow.
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