Garden of Life

Some tomatoes growing in my garden.
Some tomatoes growing in my garden.

“The more you give to the garden, the more you get back." This was a phrase I grew up hearing in my grandmother's yard as we tended to the tomato and basil plants. Her words rang true every harvest when we’d pick the fruits of all of the hard work we’d put into the garden. Sunday mornings at my grandparents’ house meant drooling over the delicious fresh sauce. Her words also resonated with me in countless other parts of my life.As an orphan, I never had one strong cultural identity. I am Native American, but was raised by my Italian grandparents. I was also raised by every family on the street I grew up with. They were Jewish, Greek, Irish, and nearly any other kind of family you can think of. I never connected to my Native American heritage until I was an adult, but once I did, my grandmother’s garden significance played a role in my life. Slowly yet surely, I gained a new understanding of the respect for nature and all it provides to us. Everything I learned in her garden, sweating and legs aching, I learned again as an adult when I explored by Native American heritage through the tradition of the vision quest. The vision quest is an Indigenous tradition undertaken by young men as a rite of passage into adulthood. My experience consisted of a four day fast in the mountains by myself. I spent my time praying, observing, and appreciating the nature around me; from the tiny bumblebees to the majestic eagles I am named after. I could feel the life and energy in every creature surrounding me, and once again I felt the power and truth of my grandmother’s words about our garden.

Place(s): Binghamton, New York

– Jim Holley

Relationship:  Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more Great-grandchild of im/migrant or more