Hodge: Gardens, Mom, God and other things I trust

Kelowna columnist Charlie Hodge’s weekly column

There is some wisdom to the old adages “what comes around goes around” and that “life has a way of repeating itself.” I’m thankful for that. It’s comforting to know there are a few things one can count on in life.

At age 10 I had a small list of things I counted on, trusted, or believed in. If memory serves me correct (the late 1960’s and 70’s did take their toll) the list included Mom (my first love), God, my dog, the Toronto Maple Leafs, and gardens.

By age 15 the list had altered slightly. It included Mom, God (sort of), my cat (the dog had died), Bobby Orr (the Leafs sucked) and gardens.

By age 40 or so the list had shortened. It included a new cat and gardens. Mom had died so I foolishly felt abandoned, I was doubting God largely due to the realities of being a journalist, and Orr had retired while the Leafs still sucked.

I awoke this morning (always a good thing) and as I slurped back my first morning java I stared blankly out the window while listening to the weather forecast for the upcoming weekend. Like many folks, the first weekend of April is a jump start time for getting my hands in the soil, prepping the yard, planting a few seeds and dreaming of the bounty of food and flowers awaiting me.

That’s when it dawned on me how all my life I’ve had the joy of just such a spring morning coffee contemplation. Likewise I realized how my belief rituals have not altered much in more than 50 years.

At age 63 (next month) my list of what I count on, trust, or believe is similar to age 10.

I believe in Mom again because I realize that though she died she never did really leave me. She’s in my heart and head every day—especially when in the garden. As my first love she empowered me with a sense of right and wrong, fair play, kindness, peace, positive energy, and personal value. She set my imagination free and proved to me that above all else, love wins.

I trust in God, though I choose to refer to him/her as the Architect of the Universe. I do not profess to understand the ways or truth about the Most High, nor do I have a huge faith in most religious dogma, however I do know this universe is much bigger and complex than I will ever know. I believe in a higher power. I have neither the knowledge or interest to arrogantly believe I understand life, how we got here or where we are going. But I do believe in believing, in the spiritual realm of faith, and am thankful for it.

I trust in my cat(s). My faithful dog at age 10 was so big I could ride around on his back. He carried me through hard, lonely times as a child and my numerous pets have continued to do so over the years. Today among my menagerie of pets I have one cat, Scaredy, who continuously reminds me of my roots. Scaredy is a feral cat who adopted me and thus is the only cat I have who occasionally ventures outside. She is my garden cat and like other cats and dogs before me shares quiet times in my garden with me. She trusts me – which I find selfishly empowering and I trust her, telling her all my dreams, fears and secrets as we roll around the garden dirt together.

I believe in the Toronto Maple Leafs again (trust? hmmm not sure about that quite yet). For the first time in 50 years there is a light at the end of the Leaf tunnel and it’s not a train. My new faith in Toronto is not only because of the young Leaf stars—it’s the departure of grumbly old farts that used to run the team such as the Ballards and Smythes.

Best of all, however, I count on, trust, and believe in gardens. Thanks to Mom and my grandpa I was raised with my hands in the dirt, learning early the nourishment value of a garden patch. That nourishment comes in many forms aside from the food factor. Spending time in the garden gives me physical, mental, and spiritual feeding as well as healthy food. Long ago I learned the healing power of simply letting the body and mind wander around flowers, vegetables, weeds, compost piles and whatever critters join the party.

Gardens encourage everything good. From the holistic actions of planting of seeds, encouragement via watering, protective caring of weeding and grooming, and the pleasure of nurturing. Later, our patience and tenderness is often rewarded with a bounty of healthy food.

My garden is a sanctuary. It’s the place I hide when the rigors of life need a little sunshine to sooth the sting, a place where my health, stress, anxiety, or worries get a soft massage.

Even on rainy days my garden provides escape. If it is too wet or nasty outside I hide in my humble greenhouse or I sit on my bed and plan, plot, and dream for the next warm day. And pour myself another coffee.

Charlie Hodge has been writing for the Kelowna Capital News since the late 1970s.

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