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Safer at Home — In the Garden

By Paul James

If there’s an upside to working from home, it’s that I can take periodic breaks from my computer to work in the garden. Yesterday morning, for instance, it took only 15 minutes to sow a second crop of arugula, two types of leaf lettuce, and some Lacinato kale in a 4’ x 8’ raised bed. Later in the day I pruned the old, scraggly growth on my Heucheras and Autumn Ferns — another quick, 15-minute task. Then back to work.

Another upside to being home, like countless others, is that I’ve met more neighbors and dogs — from a safe distance, mind you — in the last two weeks than in the previous eight years! Many of them stop to chat and invariably the subject turns to gardening. And interestingly, the conversations ultimately center around how people see their gardens as refuges, retreats, places to escape, if only temporarily, from these troubling times.

I’ve always thought of the garden as a refuge. But I do so now more than ever. I have a daughter in Queens, New York, the epicenter of the crisis. I talk to her every day and while she remains strong, I know she’s scared. When she was younger and living at home, we would spend time in the garden together planting, harvesting potatoes and garlic, and, believe it or not, memorizing botanical names like Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’ (which she remembers to this day, some 18 years later).

So now when I’m in the garden, I imagine she’s there by my side, asking me questions and making me chuckle under my breath at how she thinks bugs and worms are gross and wasps are hell bent on stinging her. I suppose it’s my way of coping with all that’s going on, and making sure that I preserve the precious memories of the two of us in the garden.

Because in all honesty, I’m a little scared too. Not for myself, but for all my family and friends and coworkers and even the millions of people I’ll never know. After all, these are scary times. I’m just glad I have a garden. I’m sure you are too.

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17 responses to “Safer at Home — In the Garden”

  1. JoAnn Huber says:

    Beautiful reflection. I too find solace in my yard and garden. While not currently growing veggies I love to grow things that flower and oh what a magnificent time of year it is to see things in blossom. I usually love showing my grandkids all the flowers too tho this year that is a bit harder! A gift of the yard this year is a momma robin nesting in a covered area by my pool. I am thrilled to have her and look forward to seeing babies hatch and grow.

  2. Deb says:

    Thank you so much for all that you do. The garden is my refuge as well. And I know what you mean, my daughter lives in Brooklyn.

    • Paul James says:

      Thank you, Deb. Hope your daughter is safe and healthy. I’m about to do some gardening. You should do.

  3. Dana says:

    I agree 100%. My garden is my therapy.

  4. Boo says:

    Enjoyed your message…my daughter and her family are in Brooklyn, so I understand your concern…stay safe and garden

  5. Susan Willis says:

    Thanks Paul for uplifting words. We all need something to look forward to soon (hopefully). I hope you and your family stay well. Love to Dana. If he understands, tell him all the secretaries at OTASCO thought he was Hollywood handsome, and we used to fight over who got to type his speeches. ( I usually got to!). Stay safe!

    Susan (Mahan) Willis

    • Paul James says:

      Thanks, Susan. At 95+ dad is still sharp and his jokes are corny as ever. I’ll tell him you said hi.


    My garden is my refuge. I am a nurse and come home to a quite peaceful place to unwind. Weeding takes my mind off the troubles.

  7. Donna Cannon says:

    Paul, I find refuge and inspiration besides calm while working in my garden. A neighbor just moved out of our neighborhood. She left me a thank-you note in my mailbox for the homemade limoncello I had given her as a going way gift. In that note was that she will miss seeing me working in my garden almost every day.

    We reap so many health benefits besides growing and harvesting our own herbs and flowers, namely mental health. For my daughter’s wedding 17 years ago, I supplied the ivy for the candelabras. Added another personal touch to the wedding ceremony.

    Thank you for what you do to inspire and to encourage others to return to Mother Nature. My husband, a family physician, is on the front lines as are a couple of my sisters who are nurses and a brother-in-law, a heart surgeon. God bless all of them – the police, the firemen, 1st responders, nurses, housekeeping in the medical facilities, other staff, hospice workers, doctors and other medical professionals. – THANK YOU! Keep them all in your prayers.

    • Paul James says:

      Thanks for that, Donna. I wish the best for your family and friends. And for what it’s worth, I love limoncello!

      • Donna Cannon says:

        Paul, I’m one of those Italian Sposato sisters – Luigi’s sister-in-law. My limoncello is extremely good! I may have to drop off a bottle for you. Consider it a high dose of Vitamin C! I’m the sister who gave you that bag of dried Italian seasonings!!

        • Paul James says:

          OMG! I didn’t recognize the name. Sorry. I so love the seasonings, but I can’t ask you for limoncello too! Then again, maybe I will. Take care. Say hi to you sisters.