Charley’s Garden “Suggestions for annihilating gloom”


It may seem strange to talk about depression in a gardening column, but it really has been a hard winter. As I write this, the snow is finally receding into dirty roadside sculptures and melting into street lakes nearly large enough to have names. We may actually have spring at last, but it has been a long, hard and gloomy season.
People sometimes confuse depression with sadness, but they are different. Sadness is the feeling you have when something bad happens: It hurts. Depression is more like hopelessness. Sadness passes, but depression is a sense of powerlessness against ongoing impossible odds, the sense of being overwhelmed by circumstances, not just temporarily suffering from them. At this point, I see it as an epidemic that surrounds me and sometimes lives within me.
The events are individual. For me, it is the sense of doom that they are going to waste a billion dollars on that stadium and that the city will live in prolonged penury because of it, the sense that some fools in Washington are going to continue to wage painful wars that will bankrupt us. It is the sense that our resources are being degraded and that a few will get rich while the rest of us pay for the cleanup, a sense that our schools are being gutted, our middle class is disappearing, our roads are full of potholes and that I am getting old. That’s my stuff, and I have some prescriptions that help me through the worst of it and a faith community that gives me hope. Others have other issues, issues that are often more real and more immediate than mine.
I once had a therapist who gave me advice for dealing with this hopelessness: wiggle your toe, she said. It may seem silly, but establishing a tiny sense of control, even in the middle of our civilization’s slow collapse, can sometimes give us the power to take the next step. And the next one. And the step after that. Some people see only clouds, while others desperately seek the silver lining. So where actually ARE those silver linings?
They are in the earth, and the sunshine, and in the spring rain. They are in hippie-dippy festivals and gardening classes and plant sales. They are in the breezes from the west and the dirt under our fingernails. They are in nature, just as they have always been.
This month, I encourage you to join the Food Resources Hub at Gardening Matters and I encourage you to plant something in your own back yard. This month I encourage you to go to a garden class of some sort and to try one new thing, whether it is composting or a raingarden or a truly weird plant that you have never grown before. (I am going to try growing peanuts this year.) And next month I encourage you to march in the May Day Parade on May 4, or at least attend the parade and pageant. Information for each of these possibilities is below.
You can pray or meditate or attend an Anonymous meeting of one kind or another. But at some point you will need to let your body move against the lingering gloom of winter, against the discouraging downward spiral our society seems in, to make a little turbulence against the Polar Vortex or against the maelstrom our institutions create as we circle the drain.
So, thinking of spring, here are some solid actions you might consider:

Saturday, April 12, 9 to 11 a.m. $25. “Growing under cover” (high tunnels and low tunnels), Growing Lots Urban Farm, 1912 E. 22nd St., Mpls. 262-470-1663 or

Saturday, April 12, 1 to 3 p.m. $15 “Backyard chicken basics,” EggPlant Farm Supply, 1771 Selby Ave., St Paul. 651-645-0818 or

Tuesday, April 15, 6 to 8 p.m. $25. “Advanced vegetable growing techniques, “ Rapson Hall, Room 43, 89 Church St. S.E., Mpls. 262-470-1663 or

Tuesdays, April 15 to May 20 (6 classes), 6 to 8 p.m. $30 for the series. “Beginning vegetable gardening, MN State Horticulture Society, 2705 Lincoln Dr., Roseville. 651-676-3601 or
Thursday, April 17. Free but RSVP required. “Raingarden in your yard,” Realife Cooperative of Phalen Village, 1355 Phalen Blvd., St. Paul. 651-792-7965 or [email protected]

Saturday, April 19, 1 to 3 p.m. $20. “Edible landscaping,” EggPlant Farm Supply, 1771 Selby Ave., St Paul. 651-645-0818 or

Thursday, April 24, 6:30 to 8 p.m. Free but RSVP required. “Beginning vegetable gardening,” Roosevelt Library, 4026 28th Ave. S., Mpls. 612-543-6700 or

Sunday, May 4, 1 p.m. on. Free. Yearly MayDay Parade and Pageant, Bloomington Ave. from 24th St. to Powderhorn Park. 612-721-2535 or

Friday, Saturday and Sunday, May 9 (9 to 8), 10 (10 to 6) and 11 (10 to 2). Free admission. Friends School Plant Sale, State Fairgrounds, 651-621-930 or

Saturday, May 10, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free (except what you buy). Dowling Community Garden plant sale, 36th Ave. and 39th St., Mpls. 612-467-9545 or [email protected]

Saturday, May 17, time and location TBD. Gardening Matters Food Hubs plant distribution. 612-821-2358 or

One Comment:

  1. Eloquent, Charlie, and honest and hope-full. Thank you for your gentle witness and encouragement!

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