The Fury of a Scorned Scallion

Hark, Ye Sanctimonious Vegetable Growers!

I’m off to my new life in Vermont tomorrow and I’ve got the gardening books packed! This one looks like it’s gonna be handy: The Vermont Gardener’s Companion, An Insider’s Guide to Gardening in the Green Mountain State. Here’s hoping there’s a spot on my North Woodsy land that gets at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight because I wouldn’t want to be accused of hating vegetable plots or something.

Oh, wait… apparently I do hate gardening –  at least according to some of the bloviating “commenters” (which seems way too kind) at TIME.com and on my blog and – a nice touch – spamming my email inbox for the last 48 hours. Not all the commenters are bloviating, mind you; some of them are very civil and help me to see things I haven’t considered. I appreciate that, even when we disagree. The ones I don’t appreciate so much like to call me names like stupid, idiot, ignorant kill-joy, mean-spirited downer, nasty and unpleasant, dumb, ‘do-nothing’ teacher. (When in doubt: slam a teacher!) It’s also been helpfully brought to my attention by these rude oafs – and I trust they won’t object to some reciprocal name calling – that I should “try” gardening for once. Evidently my opening paragraph, in which I revealed my extensive gardening experience, didn’t get that point across. And, very “constructively,” I’ve been advised that I’m full of shit as well as baloney, and should grow the f–k up, get a life, get over myself and so on.

All because I had the audacity to suggest that not everyone enjoys or has the time to garden!

Yes, yes, I can hear the gardening gorge rising: “Everyone has time to garden. All you have to do is shove a seed in a bucket with some garbage scraps and, voila, feed the neighborhood.”  Sure, I’ll grant you that. What I mean is that there are only 24 hours in the day and: Not everyone makes the decision to prioritize gardening in their lives. Some people prefer to prioritize supporting the hardworking laborers at the local farmers’ markets and fruit stands. Some people who are not actually lazy and hateful nonetheless choose to spend the hours they might be worm handling doing other things, like spending their free time on bike rides or feeding their families home-cooked meals. Or maybe they choose not to garden because they are spending their time fretting about the way Americans’ rugged individualism lets big social forces off the hook, such as public education and agriculture policies, that would address our country’s lack of wellness in a different way.

Or, hey, maybe there are even some folks who would prefer to clear their heads with a relaxing walk in the woods, not bent over a trowel, working manure into the soil. Here’s a radical idea! Maybe there are even some folks who would occasionally prioritize eating ice cream sundaes in front of the TV over gardening, or having sex with their nice spouses, or working a second job. So, shoot us!

I’m trying to be super-clear and qualify every syllable I utter, heaven forbid anyone should forget I’ve been hired to write an opinion column and am not ‘speaking for everyone in the world’ or ‘supposedly writing a review of Mrs. Obama’s book:’

It appears that a small segment of the avid gardening population is pissed off at me because I refuse to make a black and white argument about gardening. It’s all or nothing with this small segment. You’re either for us or you against us when it comes to Sun Gold cherry tomatoes. Got it?

And, by the way, haters: I don’t pick the titles of my columns; the editors do. So next time you want to scream at a writer for a “provocative” title like “Mrs. Obama’s Garden and the Trouble with Growing Our Own Food,” just remember that the whole reason people still read anything is because the title grabbed them and probably riled them up. To repeat: I don’t disparage gardening and here is my evidence:

  • “There’s a wonderful gardening movement underway in America… lovingly detailed by Michelle Obama.”
  • “It’s impossible to be unmoved by the story of how the seed of an idea now nourishes visiting dignitaries and homeless shelters alike…”
  • “…an extraordinary community… all united around a common goal of living healthy lives in harmony with the natural world.”
  • “Mrs. Obama makes a compelling argument for the role of gardening to promote and sustain healthy communities…”
  • “It’s a dream as old as our country” (after which I quote glowing endorsements of gardening by Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin and recount how gardeners fed the home front during World War II).
  • “This is not to take anything away from the inspirational stories, especially when we consider the dire consequences of a life detached from the natural world….But along with our kitchen gardens, we need to keep the pressure on higher-level forces at the root of our national health crisis, too.

And what do we make of this outrageous statement:

“I can’t help wondering, between my bouts of admiration and envy, if the transformative power of gardening has been oversold.”

Got it? I can’t help wondering, between my bouts of admiration and envy… The nerve of that woman! I’m wondering, when I’m not busy admiring and envying, if gardening’s transformative powers have been oversold.

I’ll stop quoting myself and extend my thinking a little further (or is it farther? Gosh, I’m just so stupid! Maybe I should have prioritized brushing up on grammar instead of planting my herb garden last summer):

I STAND BY EVERY WORD. (And I still love gardens.)

About ErikaChristakis

Yale Lecturer in early childhood education/Licensed teacher/Former preschool director and Harvard College house master/some-time journalist. In possession of: unmarketable bachelor’s degree (Harvard, anthropology), semi-marketable graduate degrees (public health, education…). Rewarding career at the intersection of family, society, and schools (including long stint in parenting vortex). Forging a new path to connect all of the above.
This entry was posted in Erika @ TIME.com, My story. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Fury of a Scorned Scallion

  1. Peter says:

    I really did relish this post! I happen to agree with your sentiments about gardening -it is something I recognized as not the highest item on my list – but I still appreciate gardens and gardeners. However, I always sense that, as soon as I leave their gardens, I am scoffed at and scorned for being a non-gardener, or at least not a zealot in the vegetable patch. I have quietly endured dinner table discussions of the joys and benefits of vermiculture and struggled to appear fascinated by disquisitions on composting. But I suspect I am still held in contempt by the gardener. And yet… I am a faithful supporter of our local farmers, and insist that we “also serve who only stand and wait” for our tomatoes to be weighed and our change counted out.

  2. Thanks! My sentiments exactly – but better expressed.

  3. Jay Maybruck says:

    Dear Mrs. Christakis,

    You are a marvelous writer with true intellect and writing skills far surpassing my own. Please seriously consider you very well could be witnessing the final breath of American Democracy (if we still have any shell of democracy left). We both know who owns the media. Consider how this cannot be Def-Con 1 for you. I assume you choose most of what you write from some healthy mental balance factual paradigm, which is almost always preferable. However, in this case might I suggest you can at least see there is a reasonable chance i could be correct. I, a stranger, now ask you a favor, go to Def- con 1 and stay there until the election, while sustaining a reasonably balanced life. We do not have enough sufficiently motivated and talented writers of actual intellect who are focused on sustainable focus regarding the matter of what is the best they can reasonably do to stop the final on camera sale of every democratic ideal we hold. With this uneducated a populace, particularly outside those currently not registerd to vote or will be too lazy to vote. If 1.8 billion dollars does not seem to be doing the trick there is plenty more where that came from. Truth and the force of “good”, however one chooses to frame it, often lose in the world as you very well know. We Must re-elect Obama over Romney even when one has issues with Obama, even serious issues.A Romney win with a Republican Controlled House or Senate
    is certain to cause potentially irreparable conditions.

    I look forward to your response and to all the responses from each person who reads these words.

    Choose.

    • Thank you for your response. I don’t feel quite as hopeless about the state of our democracy but I definitely agree we need a more civil and civically educated populace and it often seems that our country backs the wrong stakeholders. (Hard to believe big corporations can buy elections under guise of ‘free speech’ yet we lock up teenagers for life and execute people under often sketchy pretenses… a peculiar sense of civil rights in this country, to be sure!). It’s so easy to get incredibly discouraged but don’t forget how far we’ve come, too. I choose to live with optimism, sometimes in the face of evidence to the contrary.

  4. Aimee says:

    First, I love your blog!

    Gardening is NOT “just that simple.” For example, not everyone has access to lots & lots of direct sunlight. I live in Maine, on a very, small, very shady lot (the trees belong to my neighbors on the south side of my yard, so I can’t exactly go over there and cut them down to get more daylight). Cold climate/short growing season + shade = vegetable gardening failure. I’ve tried many years, but I’ve given up. That’s what the farmer’s market is for (I’m also the beneficiary of friends who garden a lot and don’t know what to do with all that zucchini).

    Change what you can, don’t fret about what you can’t, and have the wisdom to know the difference…..

    And like Peter said (above), if EVERYONE grew their own food, who would the farmers sell theirs to?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s