“Be with those who help your being.”Rumi
In our garden of life, many people come and go. Our interactions with others can be beneficial or detrimental to our well-being, growth, and development. I have always carried a very romanticized view of love and relationships. Only in the last few years have I become to understand and appreciate those who grow nearest to me within the borders of my garden. Like herb and vegetable varieties that may be planted together for mutual benefit, the perennial presence of my closest companions cultivates a clear capacity for collective encouragement, strength, protection, and love.
In gardening and agriculture, companion planting is the practice of growing certain plants in close proximity to each other. These garden ”friends” improve intake of nutrients, promote the presence of pollinators, preclude pernicious pests, and bolster biodiversity. Growing gracefully together, these companion plants complement each other. Tomato and basil are savory partners both in and out of the soil. Alongside each other in the garden, the aromatic basil deters pests from the tomato, allowing the tomato to bear fruit more bountifully. Moreover, many gardeners have noted that neighboring basil brings about a noticeable sweetness in the tomato. In the kitchen, these two plants mingle together deliciously in a variety of Italian dishes.
Another familial trio of garden companions is known as the Three Sisters. For centuries, these three culinary crops, corn, climbing beans, and squash, have been celebrated in Native American tradition and cultivated together to complement each other both in and out of the garden. Corn provides the stalk to support the climbing beans vertical growth. As nitrogen-fixers, the beans take nitrogen, an essential nutrient for plant growth, from the air and convert it into a form that can be absorbed by the corn and squash roots from the soil. In addition, with taut tendrils twisted lovingly around the corn, the beans provide stability and support to corn in stormy weather. Growing lush and low, the big leaves of squash shade the ground, retaining moisture in the soil and suppressing weed growth. Outside of the garden, each member of this time-worn triumvirate brings to the table specific vitamins, minerals, and macromolecules to concoct a delicious, nutritionally balanced, culinary creation.
In the landscape of my life, I have cultivated a variety of relationships. My perennial companions are steadfast, rooted deeply in trust, loyalty, and love. We expand, mature, and thrive together. We nourish each other with understanding, acceptance, grace, laughter, and joy. Supporting each other in growth, we celebrate the unfolding of our beauty bursting forth from our authentic selves. In times of disturbance, we encircle each other tightly to weather our sorrow.
In recent years, I have tended thoughtfully to an assortment of seasonal relationships. These annual allies settle close to me quickly and spark my passion, generosity, and vulnerability. They sway me to stay in the present moment, share their spirit, and alter my aspect. It is through their ephemeral existence that I renew my purpose and root deeper in my authentic self. Seasons change and it is hard to let go. As I push through the layers of compacted grief and sadness, I acknowledge and honor the wisdom, support, and unconditional love so freely shared by those with whom I have spent time, no matter how brief. I continue to grow in compassion, gratitude, and patience for others, myself, and my journey.