I’ve always wanted to make something out of nothing. I know its not possible. Things are always made out of other things. But I still have this sense that the most fun comes out of having ingredients that are just one or two steps away from nothing. In cooking I like to use a small number of staples and combine them in different ways rather than buy special ingredients just for one meal. I like to fingerweave because its taking what feels like a million messed up threads and bringing them into order; the threads aren’t “nothing” but there is a stage at the beginning where they feel like they are almost that because the chaos of it all seems so complete. Nothing is ever really from nothing, but some things feel more or less that way depending on the amount to which a person can really claim it as one’s own.
Gardening is in some ways the ultimate of making something form nothing. And yet it isn’t. You still need things to start off with. You need soil, for one. When we moved here we discovered our yard is made of clay and the back third of the yard has no soil at all just rock. So we had to buy soil and for two years I did buy bags of soil stripped off of land elsewhere and felt bad about that. Now though, I have found a new source. The city sells compost made from leaves, grass and tree clippings. (As opposed to their food compost which they are not selling yet because they haven’t tested it.) So this I have bought in abundance and now I now have enough to expand away from my garden and start planting stuff in the very back, on part of the rocky area. Yay! But my point is that even gardening involves buying something or having something already. It isn’t quite starting from nothing, though soil is easy to take for granted if a person’s never had to start off without it.
Then there’s plants. Unless you are content to just grow dandelions, you need to buy plants or seeds. I have these past three years been buying plants and seeds. I’ve also been trying to learn how to save seeds and I am thrilled beyond belief to have a ton of little seedlings coming up in my garden right now. The two I am most proud of are the Sweet Cecily and the Salad Burnet. These are seeds I had to order online because you can’t find them locally. I grew my first little seedlings inside the house and transplanted them outside. Then I’ve waited two years while they grew. Last year I let them seed themselves and this year… I have tons. I am so happy. While not quite “something from nothing” they are something into which I have put time and effort and so they are really mine.
I am delighted. And now I wait with patient anticipation (is that possible?). I have purchased this year a beautiful collection of wildflowers. Right now they are small perennials that I have done nothing but pay for and transplant. They aren’t mine yet in the way that giving them longer term care will make them and they are so far just what I paid for, nothing more. I wait for them to grow, to become something more. I wait hoping for the day when I can gather the seeds from them or separate off spreading clumps to give to friends.
Gardening is not “from nothing.” It is from the soil and the organizing factor of the plant. Plants are the nutrients of soil and air organized in a new form. They are solar powered. (And sunlight too is a limiting factor here with all the beautiful old trees in our yard and our neighbours’.) Sun transforms matter from soil to plant and then overtime the plant will return to soil. There is no part of gardening that is not a miracle. And from soil to plant to human or plant to animal to human. We all come from soil. We are soil organized. Minerals. Elements. Everything is elements organized.