Music and Gardening.

Tomato plants

It’s that time of year in which the days are getting longer and warmer, and gardeners are beginning their work on gardens.  (At least, that is the timetable here in Illinois and Wisconsin.  I know some of you in warmer areas have been tending to your gardens for awhile.)

I started to dip my little toe into gardening in 2010 after my grandfather had passed.  He was my reading buddy, and we would often read about improving the environment and methods of growing food that were effective and natural.  We always couched the terms of beginning a garden in the terms of “some day,” which was usually contingent upon me figuring out how to have more time to do it.  After he died, I realized that I could some-day-away pretty much everything I wanted to do with my life.  So I began a very small, very chaotic vegetable garden with the help of my mother.

Funny thing happens with things like vegetable gardens:  when one goes to a farmer’s market to buy the food, it seems like such a happy, easy-going environment, and it is easy to romanticize the process of gardening.  I’m embarrassed to admit that I fell prey to that, despite the fact that I grew up on a farm and witnessed the hard work that goes into keeping everything up and running there.

But there is a lot of hard work: preparing the soil, growing plants from seed (we started doing that in 2011),  getting the little seedlings used to being outside (and hoping there are no great windstorms, as we had one year, that killed off almost half our plants), watering, weeding, watching for pests and other plant problems, and then, if it all works out well enough, there is a harvest.

It is at this point when those of us who grow our own veggies know it’s worth it, because all of that hard work, including many failures, results in something colorful, tasty, and nutritious.  If done well, we have enough to enjoy right away and also have plenty to can or freeze.  And there’s something about it — perhaps, in addition to great food, also the time spent with loved ones outside, playing in the dirt — that brings happiness.

And so it is with music, as well.  It is so important to do the hard work of learning the rules of music and technique of an instrument.  At times, this can be a less than thrilling experience, but later, it all comes together into something well worth doing.  There is a sense of life-long learning by doing that comes with the territory of music-making as well as gardening, and every year, as we learn a little more and reap the benefits of growing vegetables or playing music, we get a sense of joy and satisfaction from our work and the resulting accomplishments.

Of course, there is some sense of skepticism.  When I began gardening, my grandmother had a flashback to her life as a child working her tail off in her mother’s large garden that fed their family of eight.  She thought I was crazy.  But after a few years, she helps us with planting the seeds to start growing the tomato plants indoors, and she is already making great plans for the tomatoes as well as cucumbers and asparagus.  Likewise, I have seen music students, especially those with attention or mental challenges, go from plodding through their elementary work to excitedly planning the music for their recital that they plan on playing in a few places because of their interest and the demand of family and friends in different locations.

Yes. There is hard work in creating music and growing plants, but with a little patience and practice, what we learn and receive along the way is worth it.

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