Working at a hardware store, you get to see things that give you perspective. Working in the garden center of a hardware store, you get to see more. I am sure this place is some sort of kingdom, and, or movie. It is surely the most honest place in the world. People, living and buying things they need and think they need to survive. You get to see all of the little things play out and exhibit themselves. Things that don’t normally come up in life because they lack the circumstances. It is heaven, but not without its hell.
To see these things is a privilege. An added one is the experience of working at said hardware store during a provincial lockdown, where curbside pickup and masks under the nose rule the day. When people don’t get what they want when they expect (want) it, a little section of the real them comes out. They lose their shit sometimes. It’s unpleasant as much as it is bizarre. Yelling and screaming only sometimes. Most of the time they just get all flustered and angry on the inside but know that it’s not your fault so they hold it back – which is appreciated – and just boil. Frustrated as all hell but barely keeping it at bay, not enough to not notice though. It is obvious and comical.
Though with the garden center, there is a curious change in people. For the majority are far, dare I say, happier and kinder. Now, there is no curbside pickup in the garden center, making the shopping experience much easier and quicker, but even when the item they’re looking for is out of stock they are pleasant about it. Some even crack a joke or two. Only a very small percentage show any grief or anger, unlike the ones at the front of the store picking up or trying to buy orders or the ones on the phone trying to place an order.
This may be obvious since gardening can be deemed a hobby and an enjoyable pastime, but I believe that it goes deeper than that, and is far more connected to human nature than we might think at first glance.
I once asked this beautiful Russian girl, “if there was one problem for humans you could solve, what would it be?” I asked because of my genuine curiosity and that I wanted to seem worldly in front of such an impressive person. She had come over from Russia when she was just a little girl, still fluent in the language, and studied all things ‘art’ at school. ‘Art’ meaning mainly literature, visual, psychological, historical, and subjects that I had no idea existed. She now lives in northwest Ontario on a gorgeous homestead and is one of the leads for anything gardening or plant-related and seeding and starting all of the crops used to support the homestead. She also codes to have some income and is, once again, fascinatingly beautiful. Though I must clarify, beautiful because of her kindness, intelligence, appreciation for the planet and that she’s as cute as a button. I enjoyed many saunas and joints with her.
As I had my answer locked and loaded, thinking it to be of the utmost kind and caring of solutions – showing my sensitive side – she responded with an unexpecting, so unexpecting you’d deem it obvious, of answers.
She said, “I would improve people’s connection to nature.”
I fell in love for a second or two just by the way she said it. Though, to be honest, I didn’t really know why that would be her number one choice. I’m not going to share my answer, but what about hunger, or sadness, or murder, or abuse?
She smiled and explained.
The gist of it was that improving people’s connection to nature would solve all of those problems simultaneously.
Living in a cement world, you simply cannot maintain that connection to the earth and its kin, nature. It is impossible because there is nothing or very little that resembles or acts in any way of what the planet’s been doing for the last epoch (Holocene – over 11,000 years ago) and before, as we are now in the Anthropocene – an epoch that has a bad taste so far. Nevertheless, our time, proximity, knowledge, and access to nature are therefore stifled. The beautiful and wordless world of life; trees, rocks, dirt, birds, fish, fur, teeth, blood, berries, water, wind, and fire, is disappearing – with a lot of it gone already – in tandem with our relationship to her.
This is not only a loss of her, it is also a loss of ourselves. It is a scientific fact that we are connected to the world around us; quantum entanglement and that we’re all made of the same molecular building blocks (SPONCH). Once or if a physical connection is originated then the energetic connection is never lost. Also, humans had been living with and for nature for hundreds of thousands of years before ours, their DNA in our blood. Human nature is natural, and what’s natural is nature.
To add, it just feels good to be in nature. Walk in the grass barefoot. Jump in the river. Stand under the falls. Breathe the air. Hear the sounds. It is both metaphorically and literally, healing.
And not only is it healing. But it is the perfect example of balance. Diversity, health, structure, abundance, and nourishment. Death and Birth. It has everything we would ever need, as long as we reciprocate its (our) values. Despite its current reckoning, we have and know ways to live in balance with the earth and live truly fulfilling and meaningful and loving lives. Combining old wisdom and innovation to evolve and live together. This does not produce any form of less or without. It is health. It is wealth. And it is wisdom.
It is the solution. It is the way forward. Because it is us. Or have I not made that clear yet.
There’s this older gentleman that comes around to buy and see the plants, one of the regulars. He tells me to call him ‘crazy Rob’ (Rob’s not his real name, but the crazy is). He is one of the most kindhearted, appreciative, and generous human beings I have ever met. Always in a good mood, even when he’s pissed off, which he is sometimes. But no matter, today was a beautiful day because you were alive and got to do right. And more importantly, garden. The man has, seemingly, nothing but time and some extra cash to spend on his little gardening fix. Waddling up to the store with his mask and his big all-encompassing sunglasses on, he wears them all the time because he’s embarrassed of his lazy eye, he says. I catch myself staring at it sometimes, only out of unfamiliarity. He always says my name loud and joyfully, as if he’s happy to see me. I can’t help appreciate it a bit. After some small talk, him always asking some sort of question about myself, he tells me what he’s looking for, I show him where it is, and he’s off only to come back in a couple of days to ask for something else to plant and dig and grow. And though he’s wearing a mask, I can always tell when he smiles.
Is it too much to say that crazy Rob is happier because he plants and gardens? Surely that’s not the sole reason, and whether it’s a cause or an effect, who knows, but it’s a factor. However small, he still has a connection. A piece of what we are. Something we all need to survive, let alone be better off.
And that’s all there is to it.