Some lessons can be taught by occupying Wall Street, but we learned ours by occupying the garden.
When I was a child there was a hierarchy of important days each year: Christmas, first day of school, and the annual showing of The Wizard of Oz on CBS.
Back then there was no DVR, no bevy of cable channels scrambling for content, and not even a VCR until I entered my pre-teen years.
We were used to waiting for things.
Things as seemingly simple as watching a classic movie became full-fledged cultural EVENTS.
Such is the power of delayed gratification.
As I grew older, the world changed.
Propelled by the marvelous inventions of the internet, text messaging, and the insatiable appetite of consumerism, it seemed that patience was no longer the virtue it was once cracked up to be.
Before long, I changed, too. Gone was the kid who saved up each day’s quarter allotted for ice cream just for the pleasure of the “clink” it made falling into the piggy bank. I was now a full-fledged adult, jonesing for everything the Joneses had.
In the fall of 2008, on a weekend trip to upstate NY, we came across a vacant farmhouse with a For Sale sign in the front yard. All of our friends were getting weekend places in the Hamptons or in the country. We should, too!
In our fever-induced folly, we cashed in all of our savings, signed up for a jumbo mortgage, and became landed gentry.
8 months later we were jobless.
The Great Recession, in a large part, was due to our insatiable appetite for “things” and our need to have them “right now”—often before we ever earned them. Want that big new house but can’t afford it? Here’s a zero interest adjustable rate mortgage. Can’t live without that new flatscreen TV? No problem! Open a new store credit card account and get 15% off. New car? 12 months of interest free financing! While it’s easy to make corporate America or the financial industry the scapegoat, they’ve only always supplied us with what we demanded.
Working now to make our farm-based business a sustainable one, we’re growing over 80% of the food we consume, and the garden has taught us life lessons far beyond how to build a raised bed and make goat manure tea.
We’ve re-learned how to wait.
It can seem like an eternity between planting the first seed and the moment the first seedling pushes up from the earth. It’s even longer before that seedling grows into a plant and we harvest the first tomato.
After waiting patiently for all of those weeks and months, no tomato has ever tasted better. Absence really has made the heart (and the taste buds) grow fonder.
So maybe the garden is a remedy for the ails of modern society.
When you always have immediate access to everything you could ever want, you don’t truly appreciate anything. If you haven’t worked for something or aren’t paying it’s true cost, then you lose all perspective of what to value.
So, whether or not you believe in the messages coming from the young people who protested down on Wall Street and around the country, they will quite possibly teach us all a lesson at the same time they’re learning one. These are the kids who grew up having everything they desired, the moment they desired it. And now they’re finding themselves settling in for a long winter of discontent.
But that’s a good thing. For them. For the bankers. For all of us. We might just re-learn that change doesn’t happen overnight. It might not even come by the time the buds return to the trees.
But it will come. It always does. The changes will not be what either side desires. But after waiting for them to come, they will be welcome changes.
Gilded roads steered me in the wrong direction, but a simple country drive brought me back. There’s no place like home except maybe one with your own Technicolor dreamworld in the back yard.