Isaac Crosby at the Indigenous Urban Agriculture Garden at Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto’s Don River Valley. (Photo by Lorraine Johnson)

Topics: April/May 2021, Ethical Living | Environment

7 lessons for a more spiritual relationship with your garden

What gardeners can learn from Ojibwe teachings to take better care of the earth


In this corner of the earth, I work my garden plots and they help connect me with all the dynamic energy of life that permeates our amazing universe. They draw me into communion with the Spirit of the Creator, the Source of Life, from whom all life was created. This practice always brings me back to my First Nations heritage and the Seven Grandfather teachings of my people, the Ojibwe, and how I use them in my gardening. I share them with you in hopes that you too will give thanks to Mother Earth and hold her dampened sun-drenched soil in your hands and feel all your relations as it lightly falls through your fingers.

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HUMILITY: Our work is to assist the earth in rejuvenating and to help by feeding the animals. We are not to think of ourselves as better than the earth but as mere caretakers who listen and put her needs before our own.

HONESTY: We are to be honest to ourselves as we care for the earth. Honesty in gardening means speaking the truth about how we garden and not letting our egos take control. When we are honest about our approach to gardening, we stay focused on what is being asked from us as earth workers.

RESPECT: We must always respect the earth upon which we walk. We do this by caring for her and the animals that frequent our gardens. We must take time to be with the earth, feel the energies and then attune our energies together; it helps to build respect. When we realize that we get all of our food from the earth, we then realize that you must respect her and the soil in which we grow our food.

COURAGE: There are times in gardening when we must be brave, by carefully relocating wildlife or administering gardening techniques that may not be popular. Also, we are to have courage to stand up and protect the earth against those who want to destroy her for capital.

LOVE: We are to see and experience the love of all sentient beings on earth, from the millions of microbial life forms to plants, animals and us, the humans. In gardening, love is what is needed to toil the soil; it’s needed to plan for the season. We need love in our gardens so the plants can feel it and do their best to grow healthy and strong. We need love in our gardens and in our world, especially during these times.

TRUTH: It’s important to speak the truth about our plans, to speak the truth about our experiences and to speak the truth in our gardens about ourselves. To see the truth in our actions and to feel the truth when we are in our gardens. When we are truthful in our gardens, our gardens will be truthful to us.

WISDOM: All the hard work of the other six teachings culminates in this final teaching. We become knowledgeable and wise in all of our gardening experience. The knowledge comes from learning to care for the soil and the plants. The wisdom comes from our years of hard work and dedication in caring for the earth.

Gardening while using these seven teachings keeps me in the present moment. I become mindful of my spiritual connection to the earth and life itself when I dig into the soil. As I breathe, I remember all that has come before me. I breathe in air and remind myself that I am an earth worker. I am an earth-being who shares my life history with all other life forms. I feel the momentous reality of how we are all connected, and this realization takes my breath away. Miigwetch.


Isaac Crosby is the lead hand in urban agriculture at Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto.

This story was first published in Broadview’s April/May 2021 issue with the title “Gardening with wisdom and love.”

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