The seed has a pattern reminiscent of a tiger’s fur, but in several shades of brown. I examine it in my fingertips for a few seconds before gently placing it into the prepared crevice and covering it with potting soil, almost like tucking in a toddler at bedtime. I drizzle a few drops of water over it before placing it in a sunny spot. I don’t know it yet, but this is the start of a whole new chapter in my life: The Gardening Section.

 

I was diagnosed with depression (moderate – thank God) in the second semester of my second year at Rhodes University. I didn’t attend lectures. I slept too much. I didn’t eat enough. I half-assed my way through assignments and felt even worse when I wasn’t getting the As that I wanted. I lost my childlike ability to find joy in the mundanity of day to day life, a quality I had treasured for years. The vibrant colours of the world around me had faded to dreary greys, and I had neither the motivation nor desire to brighten them, only making them duller. This continued for months.

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I was visiting a friend one day in June when I first noticed his admirable collection of plants. He had had them every time I had visited, but I only noticed them that day. I’m glad I did. On this occasion, he had rows and rows of seedlings neatly lined up in polystyrene cups. The neat orderliness of these cups caught my attention. I was fascinated, and decided to try it for myself. Once at home, I gathered the necessary makeshift implements – a pot, soil, gravel (in this instance, lacking gravel, I used glass shards from a friend whose car window had recently been smashed), a serving spoon in lieu of a spade, and of course, a seed (selected from the dozens of seeds that happened to be lying around the house) – and got to work. It changed my life.

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I now maintain a veritable jungle on the balcony of my flat in Grahamstown. 33 pots (and one old, wooden wine case), 25 plants, and an assortment of seeds germinating. I had to start over at the beginning of this year, as the heatwave and drought in the Eastern Cape over December killed all but two of my plants.

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Gardening allows me to maintain a sense of homeostasis in a chaotic life filled with assignments, deadlines, and commitments, in addition to mundane everyday chores like grocery shopping and tackling seemingly endless mountains of dishes, . It allows me an island of calm in the midst of a storm, a place to breathe and reflect and simply to think. It allows me to connect with nature instead of ones and zeroes and LED screens. It allows me the joy and pride of bringing life into the world without the burden of children. It allows me peace. It also allows me to work toward a more sustainable life, which I aspire to maintain over my lifetime. It allows me the pride of growing some of my own food, and the added joy of ‘sticking it to the man’ when I spend slightly less money on groceries. It allows me joy and motivation in the void of depression.

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Also published on http://www.fumblingstudent.wordpress.com.

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