Sunday, March 14, 2021

There's No Space Between a Hug ...

Let’s talk space. It’s topical lately. During this COVID-19 pandemic, six feet is the recommended amount of space you should practice when you come into the presence of another person not living under the same roof as yours. It’s called “social distancing.” It’s what is deemed an appropriate amount of space to keep us from perhaps spreading a highly contagious disease. When the mandate was first passed down, it felt odd to all of us. Six feet feels like an awful lot of space when you’re so accustomed to not noticing or practicing how close you are to another. I think human beings have a type of invisible magnet in them that naturally pulls them closer to each other, though. Six feet isn’t really all that far, but most times we are closer to each other as we pass or share a space. We just don’t think about it. It’s natural to walk past someone within inches. So to be told to practice six feet, to notice the distance, the space between feels very far, indeed.

And, we’re practicing this in order to stay healthy. We need to give each other space to breathe, to live, and to grow.

This needing space thing makes me think of my gardens.

I have two gardens in my backyard. I call them my north garden and my south garden. They’re about the same size, maybe 9ft x 9ft, give or take a foot or two. Neither of them are very large garden areas, but I must harvest a hundred tomatoes of varying sizes from them every year. 
Over the years, I’ve been blessed with tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, cucumbers, zucchini, snap peas, green beans, cilantro, garlic, onions, garlic, and tomatillos. 

Tomatillos are fun to grow. They grow in abundance. We had salsa verde for the longest time thanks to the abundance of tomatillos. Then, one year, I had corn growing in my little north garden. That took some doing. Lo and behold, corn needs to grow a little closer together than I first thought. They’re not the type of plant that needs a lot of space between. Enough space, but not too much. Corn stalks actually grow better if they can touch each other. It’s how they make their ears of corn. They have to touch each other. Broccoli, on the other hand, needs a lot more space. Two broccoli plants can take up about half my garden! And not much below their leaves will grow because there’s too much shade blocking the sun from reaching the soil below. 

It almost sounds as if I have 40 acres, doesn’t it? The corn grew in the north 40. Just kidding. It didn’t, and I don’t have 40 acres. My gardens are relatively small, but I am pretty good at using the space. The problem is, sometimes, if the onions are too close, they grow funny. If you plant too many tomatillo plants, you have salsa verde for a very long time.

I’ve learned by gardening that I need to use my space wisely to get the best out of my garden. I’ve also learned that if plants in your garden are growing too close together, and one plant gets sick, disease will spread very quickly to the plants nearby. Contagious, easily spread disease could wipe out your garden in no time. Does this sound familiar? But, given enough space between your plants, they grow and thrive. They are happy. This applies for human beings, as well. Given enough space between us, we grow and thrive and we are happy.

It’s important not to be too close to each other, but it’s also very important to not have too much space between the ones we love. That invisible magnet pulls us closer, or at least close enough. If the space is miles between, we close the space by calling each other, writing emails, texting, etc. We want and need  to close the space, to fill the space, to feel the closeness of each other one way or another. If we are under the same roof, we are able to close the space even better. We cook, clean, celebrate, live and love very closely. There’s no space between a hug.

Then there’s this thing called “outer space.” Ever heard of it? There’s a great quote from the movie, Contact, that I just love: “The universe is a pretty big place. It's bigger than anything anyone has ever dreamed of before. So if it's just us... seems like an awful waste of space.” There’s that invisible magnet again, pulling us humans toward something else that may be living. We human beings feel the need to fill the space. We want to visit outer space, we want to find other living things, we’re curious if we are alone in all this awful lot of space the universe holds. And, we’re pretty sure—or want to be sure—we are not alone. We again want to fill the space. Why is that? I wonder sometimes.

I’ve learned by gardening that I need to use my space wisely to get the best out of my garden, but that doesn’t mean I always apply what I’ve learned. I try to squeeze as many seeds into my soil that I possibly can. I sometimes forget that my onions need more space or that two broccoli plants could cover all the soil below, casting shadow and slowing the growth of any seeds hoping to feel the warmth of the sun. Why do I do this? I think it’s because I’m hopeful. I love to watch my garden grow. I love to see the vegetables begin to form. I’m excited about the possibilities. I love to fill the space.

Maybe that’s the same for all human beings. We pull closer to each other because we’re excited about the possibilities. We want to believe there’s more life out there in that great universe full of space because we’re hopeful. We know we need to allow each other space to breathe, to live, and to grow. But, we just can’t help to fill the space. 

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