The Garden Muse — Be thankful

Published 11:00 am Thursday, October 13, 2022

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This past weekend provided cool temperatures and some beautiful fall landscapes for all to enjoy. The local towns in Southside Virginia were all a-buzz with fun activities for all. It felt good to wrap up in a cozy sweater and mingle with folks at Autumn Fest in Victoria, then stroll Main Street in Blackstone to enjoy meeting some of the many talented artists from our community. Two separate conversations in particular; one with the commissioner of revenue for our town/ county and the other with some fine folks from our local Veterans of Foreign Wars organization, really had me thinking and stirred up some fresh emotions regarding loved ones that have passed.

While in the garden Sunday morning, picking a few figs off the tree for the chickens, an overwhelming sense of gratitude came over me. I reflected on the abundant harvest my gardens had provided throughout the growing season. I also felt thankful that it would be my own choice to garden and decide what I would be growing and tending to in it. I could not help but think of how fortunate and Thankful I am to live in a country that allows all citizens to live life to the fullest on their own terms. I wondered how many folks really understand and appreciate the magnitude and scope of the freedom we experience every day.

I reflect on memories of my grandparents whom myself and siblings were awfully close to growing up. Both from the ‘G.I. Generation.’ They lived through the Spanish Flu pandemic, First & Second World War, The Great Depression, The Korean, Vietnam, Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and part of the Global War on Terror (Oct 2001-ongoing.)

I understand now as an adult why their generation is sometimes referred to as the ‘Greatest’ generation. They survived the lonely solitude of my grandfather being off to fight a war in another country, while my grandmother kept the home fires burning. They both worked diligently all their lives and saved for tomorrow because as my grandmother used to say, ‘you never know what tomorrow is going to bring.’ They raised a loving family and took care of their neighbors when needs arouse. Seems like a lot of heartache through the years to have endured and I am Thankful for the nurturing and love they shared.

Looking back now, I understand why it was so especially important to them to have a garden and not only plant what they projected they would need, but plant more than what would be needed to take care of others in the community. The local market or grocery was a luxury. The garden was the staple food provider for the family. My grandfather knew how to fix almost anything that broke. They both saved everything if they thought it could be useful in the future. They loved their children, grandchildren, and great grandchild fiercely and strived to give them more than they had growing up.

The greatest generation indeed. My grandparents were both first generation Americans. My grandmother was the youngest and only child of nine not to have endured an arranged marriage. My grandfather’s parents were from a country that dictated what education and career path you would take at a youthful age. Religion was a given, you were of the denomination into which you were born. There was no choice in the matter.

I am the product of the ‘Silent Generation’ I was born during the last year of the ‘Baby Boomer’ era. I am not sure why, but I have noticed a decline in the ‘neighbor helping neighbor’ mindset and open mindedness over the years. Somewhere along the way society seems to have become increasingly consumed with the welfare of themselves and the pursuit of power over happiness. I pray we as a people/ country find our way back to benevolence.

Freedom is not free. We owe a debt of remembrance and gratitude to all those who sacrificed before us, so that we may enjoy the freedom to live and be who we choose to be today.

Be thankful for all that you have. Have faith to believe in whatever tomorrow will bring and that it will be better than today. Take care of your neighbor as you would yourself and plant a garden for the future.

Dawn Conrad is a Virginia Cooperative Extension Master Gardener, Herbal enthusiast, Writer and Fiber Artist. She can be contacted at dawn@