by Axie Barclay

Books, gardens, and relationships all share one thing in common: cultivation. You can throw a seed or plant in the ground, but without a lot of luck, the plant likely won’t thrive. Likewise, you can buy a book, but without some commitment to reading, it’ll work better as a doorstop and object to dust once or twice a year. (What? Like you don’t dust your house with a shopvac? Only me? Crap. Moving on…)

The word cultivation refers not only to tilling and hoeing the soil, but also to culture. Refinement also fits in there somewhere and that kind of polish don’t just happen. Culture takes work, just like a garden, each with their own planting, tilling, weeding and watering needs, as do a multitude of other things in life. Whether you’re cultivating a garden, a book, a relationship, or a better credit score, there’s plenty to learn from the plants. Because, let’s face it, they’ve been at it a lot longer than people have.

  1. Sunlight, air, and water. Plants know what they need. Without a goodly amount of these components, and a well-balanced dirt diet, plants might grow, but will likely fail to thrive. People likewise need fresh air and sunlight to thrive. How often have you heard someone saying, “Man, all this being outdoors, it’s really getting to me. If I don’t get this promotion, I’m hightailing it to corporate job.” Yeah not so much. Get outside and breath, enjoy the world around you, take a bottle of water and hit the trails or hike the neighborhood. Nothing is a mood lifter like sunshine, especially if you’re from northern climes where the sun goes away for half of the year. Besides, what works for the dark leafy greens can’t be all bad.
  2. Nutrition. Just as feedlot, grain fed, confinement meats don’t offer quality nutrition, neither does superficiality or artifice offer quality nutrition to our relationships. Cultivate honesty, learn open communication, and really listen. Whether it’s a romantic relationship or one with your grandmother, humans are highly social creatures and social media only gets us so far. Think quality not quantity, in meats and in relationships. Would you rather have ten fast food half pounders or one very high quality grass-fed steak? Which one is more satisfying to your mind and body? The same goes for relationships, one good friend is worth two hundred Facebook ones. And with books, branch out once in awhile. No one should live on corndogs alone. Put down your usual genre and try something new, if for no other reason than to remember why you never made it through Finnegan’s Wake.
  3. Cultivate patience. It takes a long time for a plant to grow. Reading takes a certain time commitment that takes away from vital biological needs, like The Voice and Survivor. Relationships don’t shoot up overnight either, or, if they do, they still take care. Water daily, fertilize in a timely manner, and get plenty of sunlight. And no, sunlight on a Wii tennis match doesn’t count.
  4. Genuinely enjoy the world around you. Ever see an unhappy tomato plant? A crabby cucumber? They may not have higher neural processes, but we can still take note: Enjoy the sunlight, enjoy the rain, and worry less about the chickens scratching at the garden gate, eying the ripe watermelons. None of us get out alive and second chances are more rare than blue roan Shorthorn cattle. Don’t waste time with bad books, and if someone in your life is draining your energy and tearing you down rather than being a friend, think about cultivating them to the curb.

Axie Barclay is a Michigan writer with a cow-habit. Having discovered the joys and potential for growth in alternative agriculture, she quests ever longer and harder for ways to combine farming and writing into a business. When not milking cows, making disgruntled noises at the latest disgusting thing the heeler dogs dredge up, riding horses, or keeping the fence up around her small beef herd, she’s holed up reading an eclectic array of books or tapping out pages. When not working, she enjoys kicking back with her honey, family, and friends at a bonfire with some beers. Chat her up on Twitter and Facebook, /axieb, or where she delves into literature and agriculture with a relish… and occasionally ketchup. Soon to be homemade.