By Lourdes Still
I moved to Canada 11 years ago and I can still vividly remember my first impression – how sweet the smell of Spring air was! I had plans when I decided to move and like most immigrants, it was the beginning of something new in every aspect of my life; personal, work, social and church. The four-season climate leads me to new life rhythms that are so different from tropical living. Within the last decade, I moved from an urban home to downtown apartments to country living, north end to city centre to south-east Mb. I’ve always lived a busy, fast paced life and the switched to slow living was a welcome change.
Country living can be a life-changing force if you let it be. I daydream about living out of town, but I didn’t pursue it. It’s too far from everything that’s familiar to me. Busy streets, malls, coffee shops, quirky downtown restaurants and interesting little villages in and around town. Looking back now, my transition from the Philippines to Canada was an easy one and it’s because I looked for things, events, gatherings and places that are like what I am used to.
One weekend on a summer afternoon after being out and about with a friend, I came home and was suddenly overcome with anxiety. I was anxious about not having anything planned for the rest of the weekend. I was home in my apartment, but I couldn’t hold on to anything that made me feel “home”. Sitting on my couch trying to navigate these feelings, it was sinking that I uprooted from my first home and my new roots are shallow. There were new and genuine connections in my life already, but I am missing something deeper. My anxiety passed, life continued but unbeknownst to me, it was the start of getting to know Canada in out of ordinary ways.
Summer of 2016 was my first Manitoba gardening experience. I joined my boyfriend who is now my husband to tend to his new garden in south-east Mb, just outside the town of La Broquerie. It was so exciting to grow tomatoes, beans, peas and potatoes a few feet away from the kitchen. I learned of the slow food movement which is a global initiative that encourages people to take time in preparing their meals and knowing where the ingredients come from. We put the garden to bed in the fall and let it have its long slumber in Manitoba winter. As the snow thaws the following Spring, I sowed seeds, coddled seedlings for months indoors, transplanted it all in the garden, watched it flowered, bear fruit and harvested food all summer long.
Gardening has taught me how to live through the seasons. Winter to learn new things in the comfort of my cozy home; Spring to hope and emerge from hibernation; Summer to cultivate and create with the abundance of plants and flowers around me; and Autumn to fall back to slower rhythms of life. It goes without saying that gardening in the north is different from the tropics. Mango and ube will always remind me of my native land but as I learn more about the perennial plants in my back forty, the more I feel at home here in the prairies. I have a long way to go but it’s a start. I have heard many times that the vast and flat annual wheat fields of the Prairie are boring, but I say it’s only because we are looking at it superficially. There is plenty of diversity in the prairie or at least there was, and if we look closely, it is anything but boring. Robin Wall Kimmerer, author of Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants put it together so wonderfully when she said:
“Being naturalized to place means to live as if this is the land that feeds you, as if these are the streams from which you drink, that build your body and fill your spirit. To become naturalized is to know that your ancestors lie in this ground. Here you will give your gifts and meet your responsibilities. To become naturalized is to live as if your children’s future matters, to take care of the land as if our lives and the lives of all our relatives depend on it. Because they do.”
Lourdes Still is the founder and co-owner of Masagana Flower Farm & Studio in SE Manitoba. She believes that no matter how long and cold Manitoba winters are, we can still cultivate beauty and harvest bountifully in the heart of Canada.