The notification caught my eye. You have a new follower. I clicked over to my Instagram feed – the account I had created specifically for gardening. I hoped to connect with other gardeners and inspire beginning gardeners with my experiences. I peeked at my new follower’s Instagram profile.
She’s from Russia?
My own gardening journey in its toddlerhood phase, I hadn’t really developed relationships with other gardeners, not on a wide scale anyway.
Within a few months my followers included people from six continents and multiple states. I watched an older gentleman grow tomatoes in Florida (in January) and a man from southeast Texas start his greens months before I could start mine. I salivated over a young woman’s bountiful lemon harvest in California, answered questions from a new gardener in Kansas, and marveled at the snow-covered garden of a follower in Maine.
My Instagram community compares paradoxically to my small-town upbringing in Arkansas, though it looks as eclectic as you might find in an urban area. I’m discovering a joy in “meeting” people from diverse walks of life under one common interest.
News outlets paint pictures of division and hate and war. It’s hard to watch sometimes and I just want to withdraw to a secluded cabin in the Arkansas woods to get away from the angry voices.
But my Instagram feed paints a different picture, a vibrant picture with a prism of melding colors. It wouldn’t surprise me if my Texas friend has a Donald Trump bumper sticker on his truck, while another friend participated in the Women’s March. My Florida friend donates his extra garden produce to charity, my Canadian friend grows for her family, and my Pennsylvania friend runs a gardening business.
We cheer each other on as our seedlings mature like young moms do with growing children. We ask each other questions. We compare differing methods. We bond over a shared interest.
None of our differences matter. Sure, even in gardening circles we can argue over types of fertilizer or whether we till our soil. We may have strong opinions on GMO seeds and Monsanto, and we may or may not grow hybrid varieties of plants. But no matter our specific passions in those areas, there’s no fighting over who is right or wrong.
If we see an emerging seedling or a growing garden or a plant we’ve never heard of before, we cheer! When aphids damage a kale crop we offer words of encouragement. We salivate over the tomato that our southern friends grow in January and we pick the brains of our friends who inspire us with their unique raised bed or trellis.
Gardening bonds people. Whether we’re separated by seven blocks or seven time zones, we gardeners unite.
We understand, like few others do, the power of spending an afternoon serenaded by the mockingbirds while we’re wrist-deep in soil. We know what it’s like to appreciate summer rains as more than what might rain out a baseball game. We experience the miraculous process of composting and marvel at the work of the common earthworm. We taste the difference between a grocery store tomato and one picked off the vine in the back yard.
In a world full of competing voices, in a world of division, gardening brings people together. If we’re tired of the angry voices and we feel helpless do change it, we can do something. We can plant something even if it’s just one plant. And we can find others who do the same.