Long have I jested that the most important skills I’ve learned were in kindergarten. But one moment was genuinely, truly special. One moment opened a door to an inner realm filled with light and possibility, a portal to wonder and miracle.
It all began with the empty Campbell soup can. Each child was told to bring one to class. Our teacher punctured small holes in the bottoms using the sharp end of a bottle opener. We filled our cans to two-thirds with potting soil – it was another messy day for our visionary instructor! She gently opened a small rectangular packet, glossy white with a picture of pretty flowers on its front. In retrospect I’m certain she purchased it from our local family-owned hardware store. Each spring like clockwork a wire rack would appear filled with colorful enticing envelopes of garden flowers and vegetables.
One seed per child was carefully rolled into our cupped palms from the upturned envelope. Nasturtium seeds are large – easily handled by youngsters whose motor skills are yet developable. Upon instruction we dutifully inserted these magic beans pressing them just under the top layer. We labeled each makeshift red and white planter with our names and placed the cans clustered upon waterproof trays. Sharing small colorful plastic watering cans we showered our projects with life-giving waters.
Golden warm sunshine streamed in rays through the south-facing picture window onto our tender world. The good sun warmed the cans. We could not have known in the dawns of our young lives that hidden seeds were waking from sleep, stretching their skins, drinking in the available water from the warm potting mix. All of this was the secret garden laying the foundation of what glory would come.
Seeds sprouted. Stems coiled from cans. Pretty rounded leaves developed. Green buds transformed to magic flowers and I was wonder struck. Court and spark. Miracle and beauty were born as a wide-eyed child watched. A portal opened in his inner eye and he was transported through it to a timeless place. It was an epiphany moment, transformational – one that has remained quietly within me throughout my life.
Fifty years later I revisit this seminal transfiguration with every woody plant cutting, old-fashioned perennial division and, yes, every seed I plant. The making of new plants is magical, filled with earthy therapy and deep joy, miraculous, mysterious and timelessly wonderful.
We’ll call her Bela Dube. Recently Bela surprised me with a lovely water color of four detailed Campbell soup cans set in a row. The final one with a nasturtium roiling out of the can, a lovely light golden orange flower atop green leaves with the word “smitten” scribed beneath. Touched by my tale Bela created a visual representation of this pure moment. She pointed to a path.
We’ll call him Kap Lanstan. After he had framed this new physical representation of an old memory Kap led me along that sun-drenched path and gently brought me to the threshold. These catalysts are the reasons I have walked over this threshold to share my tale of light with you.
Fewer and fewer young people garden. Fewer are afforded the teachable moment of spiritual satisfaction, magic and therapy that gardening is. Tragically, but there exists a disconnected chasm, a void between today’s children and the natural world. Television, all manner of electronic gadgetry, video games and computers… Parents’ fears of tick and mosquito-borne illness, skin cancer and less discretionary time with both parents working contribute to the sequestering of today’s children away from the sun, soil and nature. I hear a repeated despairing chorus, an increasingly loud drumbeat from other nursery owners and people in and around green industries. My experience does, indeed, parallel the concerned voices of others. I see not enough young faces at Quackin’ Grass.
My personal epiphany moment as an impressionable child in kindergarten opened a portal to a transformative world of wonder and possibility. This nasturtium-inspired magical mystery tour did make possible new realms of enlightenment and future opportunity. It truly, richly changed my life.
I don’t make a habit of writing about myself. But I’ve come to understand that this memory which has been so much a silent and integral part of my being might be pertinent, exemplary. If this tale inspires but one of my readers to recreate magic with a son or daughter, niece, nephew or grandchild – or should you be an employed teacher or guardian who teaches; if my experience might open a portal filled with light then consider this: pay it forward. You may inspire a tender soul by sparking an impressionable young person, allowing providence to fill that pristine place untouchable by corrupting influence. Bring a child to the threshold. Allow him or her to step beyond. Leap. Fly. Miracle and wonder: pay it forward. Peace.