Having just passed through a time traditionally filled with hope - for
longer days, the hope the birth of Jesus brings to Christians, or for
sticking with our resolutions - I was rereading an old New York Times
article headlined, "Hope Emerges as Key to Success in Life."
I started thinking about what for me is the visible sign of hope for much
of the winter: vegetable seedlings growing in a south window and under a
skylight, and their connection with the year's garden.
Hope has two components: desire and the expectation of fulfilling that
desire. We can't realistically hope we'll win the lottery. Although we may
want to win, we can't legitimately expect to win, because of the long odds.
One of the psychologists quoted in The Times put it this way: For us to
have hope, we need to have both the will and the way, or the means to
accomplish our goal." end quote. We all know the way to eat less, spend
more time with our children or to fulfill many other New Year's resolutions
we may have made, but we have little hope of achieving our goals if we
don't have the will, or desire, to do so.
The Times article reports that psychologists have found that a high level
of hopefulness is a very good indicator of success in college, or of the
ability to cope with stressful jobs or debilitating illnesses.
Hope is nebulous, and involves an attitude or a way of thinking. From
these studies, it seems to be transferable from one area of life to
another, from career success to coping with a serious injury, for example.
In fact, flexibility is one of the primary attributes of hopeful people:
the flexibility to find different ways to achieve their goals, or to change
goals if hope for the current one dims. Hopeful people think about setbacks
not as failures, but rather as challenges.
It seems likely that one of the ways to build a hopeful way of thinking,
which can lead to greater success, is to have had some positive experience
in fulfilling a desire, or achieving a goal - sort of like the chicken and
the egg. Where do we start to find hope?
Hope seems to be in somewhat short supply these days, except in the stock
market and among consumers, so let's get back to those seedlings.
I discovered long ago that one way to make the winter really fly by was to
start seedlings for vegetables and flowers. Celery, pansies, foxgloves,
onions, early cabbage, and delphiniums all need to be started in February
for good production. In March, it's time to start broccoli, eggplant,
lettuce, tomatoes, dianthus, dahlias, and some marigolds. Snapdragons,
zinnias, salvias, leeks, and petunias, also do well if started in February
By the middle of March, it's time to plant peas and early greens outside,
and soon after, time to move some of the seedlings to larger containers or
to the cold frame.
And once April is here, plants are sprouting, blooming and growing so fast,
that they will absorb all the attention we can give them. After a summer
and fall of eating and enjoying the results of February's effort, there are
the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years holidays. Then it's January
again and time to start ordering seeds, and preparing trays of soil for
seedlings. However, next year, all this is done with the skill and
knowledge from this year's garden, and with the expectation of success
based on the previous year's experience.
Although many things can go wrong in the time between the tiny seed and the
mature flower or vegetable, there are also many chances and many paths for
success. If you miss the early broccoli, you can always start it in May.
If you don't get to plant onion seeds inside in February or March, you can
buy onion sets and plant them outside in April or May. The point is that
with a little care, almost anyone can have success in turning the contents
of small packages of seeds into delicious vegetables and beautiful flowers.
Since most of us have a desire for good food or beautiful flowers, this
activity has all the ingredients needed for hope - a hope which returns
every year and increases with the previous years' successes.
I suspect that this aspect of gardening is high among the reasons gardeners
are generally cheery, optimistic and resourceful people. It's also one of
the reasons I recommend that you get directly involved with producing food
and flowers in your own garden in 1998.
Happy New Year!
This is Bill Duesing, Living on the Earth
(C) 1998, Bill Duesing, Solar Farm Education, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491.
Bill and Suzanne Duesing operate the Old Solar Farm (raising NOFA/CT
certified organic vegetables) and Solar Farm Education (working on urban
agriculture projects in southern Connecticut and producing "The Politics of
Food" and "Living on the Earth" radio programs). Their collection of essays
Living on the Earth: Eclectic Essays for a Sustainable and Joyful Future
is available from Bill Duesing, Box 135, Stevenson, CT 06491 for $14
postpaid. These essays first appeared on WSHU, public radio from
Fairfield, CT. New essays are posted weekly at http://www.wshu.org/duesing
and those since November 1995 are available there.
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