I read Alice Walker’s 1972 essay, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens” a few days ago and I was stunned into silence on how her words, written more than 40 years ago, echoed the intention and design of this very website.
Walker wrote, of her own mother:
She made all the clothes we wore, even my brothers’ overalls. She made all the towels and sheets we used. She spent the summers canning vegetables and fruits. She spent the winter evenings making quilts to cover all our beds. During the ‘working’ day, she labored beside — not behind — my father in the fields. Her day began before sunup and did not end until late at night. There was never a moment for her to sit down, undisturbed, to unravel her own private thoughts; never a time free from interruptions — by work of the noisy inquires of her many children.
Her portrait of her mother as a hard-working, ceaselessly amazing woman is often what we think of when we imagine the previous generations of women who birthed us. It was not easy to fulfill your dreams in the shadow of Jim Crow, in the grips of poverty, in the face of a society that said a woman’s job was to raise children and be quiet about it.
Walker’s mother, who had little time for creative pursuits, fueled her creativity into one outlet: her garden. There her fingers worked their magic in the dirt, coaxing forth beautiful blossoms in the impossibly rocky earth. Her talent was so well-known that Walker notes, “…to this day people drive by our house in Georgia-perfect strangers — imperfect strangers and ask to stand or walk among my mother’s art.”
That’s the thing about our true yearnings. It always comes out. Always.
This is why I created this site. I spent many years doing everything I could to make everyone else around me happy. I worked hard at a 9 to 5, I catered to my husband, I poured hours and hours into my children—all of this at the expense of what I wanted. I never even slowed down enough to consider what that might even be.
It wasn’t until my 29th birthday that I stopped, looked around and thought, “Where am I in all this?” In all my work to create a wonderful life for my family, where was I?
Two questions I believe every woman needs to be able to answer are, What do I want? and What makes me happy?
And I couldn’t answer either.
So I began the long process of falling in love with myself, to the point where considering my needs and wants first would no longer be a conscious practice but something I did without thinking.
I set out to create my “garden,” that small piece of my life that was all mine. I cultivated that space and put many hours into discovering who I was beyond all the other titles in my life. And you know what happened?
I discovered that I am pretty cool. That I am funny. That my compassionate side burns bright and I enjoy helping people almost more than anything else. That I enjoy creating things and baking things.
The answers to what I want and what makes me happy are one and the same: a space to authentically be me, to explore my interests, to love on my family and grow as a strong woman. I created that space here.
Now I want you to consider:
- What is your garden? Where do you feel unapologetic and free? Is it a physical space or a mental one? How do you access it?