The Garden of Promises Kept

I shall confidently make one prophecy for the coming year: most New Year’s Resolutions will be broken by the time the first flowers of spring burst into bloom.

January takes its name from Janus, the Roman god of door and gate. With his two faces, one facing forward, one looking back, Janus could both view past events and see forward into the future. In 46 BC, when Julius Caesar introduced a new calendar to better reflect the agricultural seasons, the leadoff spot suitably went to Janus. So, if we turn out to be two-faced in both making and breaking our resolutions, we may justifiably cite precedent.

The problem lies not with us. Our self-made promises for the New Year are, in themselves, laudable things. As New Year’s day arrives, why not make a vow to change some aspect of oneself? By all means, let’s face the chill blasts of January with the warm and soothing prospect of an improved self.

No, the problem is a structural one, having to do with resolutions, which come in one of two kinds. There is the abstinence resolution, in which we vow to forswear some bad habit: like drinking, gluttony, and being late for work. The problem with these resolutions is that, once fulfilled, we are where we should have been in the first place; our strenuous resolve has landed us at the norm: an improvement, to be sure, but scarcely thrilling. We have climbed to ground level.

The second kind of resolution is action-oriented. We promise to start exercising, eating better, spending more quality time with the family. Resolutions such as these do not break so much as evaporate. As soon as we pass up the gym in order to catch up on Facebook, take the first bite into a cheeseburger, miss a child’s dance recital due to work, the resolutions—commandments once boldly chiseled onto the tablet of our conscience—dissolve into a pile of psychic rubble.

Taken individually, both kinds of resolutions float separately in a kind of existential void. Worst of all, each leaves us solitary in our pursuit of self-improvement. Who notices when we bend or break a promise made in haste at the New Year’s approach? Indeed, no one is paying much attention, save our consciences—and God, who has seen this sort of self-betrayal many times before.

What New Year’s resolutions need—what we need—is a way to keep faith with ourselves, achieve our goals, have fun, and have something tangible to show for our efforts.

For 2010, I propose a revolution in resolutions. It is in the garden where our dreams of self-betterment can come true. The garden provides a delightful and serene setting where you can live up to your hopes for the year, enjoy the company of your family, and reap a harvest of benefits. Here, your resolutions will literally bear fruit.

In a recent survey, our company, W. Atlee Burpee, asked respondents to cite their top New Year’s resolutions. The seven most frequently cited are getting more exercise, eating more nutritiously, losing weight, saving money, spending more time with the family, reducing stress, helping the environment.

Eureka! The answer is at hand. The best, surest way to fulfill all these resolutions is to be found in the garden. Nothing nebulous about tending to a garden in your own back yard.
Here resolutions grow into delicious vegetables, nutritious salads and serenely beautiful and fragrant flowers.

In your garden you escape the futility of the treadmill, your exercise bringing new pleasures, plucked from the vines and pulled from the soil, and welcome discoveries of floral display. Extraordinary savings grow in the garden as well, as you reap a bumper crop of savings together with a priceless array of flavors. The garden offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity for the family to be creative and productive, and have fun. Think of it as space in the home—or at your community garden—dedicated to addressing all seven resolutions.

America’s thousands of new gardeners are rediscovering a magical realm where—amid the flourishing vegetables, blooms, herbs and fruits—we grow into better people. 2010 is growing to be a great year.

The above appeared in a shorter version in the Op/Ed section of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on December 29, 2009.

This entry was posted on Thursday, December 31st, 2009 at 2:25 pm and is filed under Original Posts. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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12 Responses to “The Garden of Promises Kept”

  1. Teena Garay said:


  2. Karen said:

    Enjoyed your comments. My goal is always not to look back, looking back merely makes us more aware of our failures and is kind of depressing, so I always look forward to the next day, week, year. My veggies are my goal every year. My fall garden is still thriving, Lettuce and spinach, but radishes didn’t do well at wall. All tops and no radishes. Bur I look forward to spring and more veggies.

  3. Shirley Weaver said:

    I love your stories and share them with others. Here is my comment on the last issue.
    This story from Burpee is great as it is in the garden where you can walk and talk with the Lord and let off steam or meditate on His goodness or just relax and dig in the dirt.
    Your entire family can get involved in the project as you well know that Jean, Anne and Bill all work in their yard year round. Little Anne got started with her garden at 7 or 8 years and now she has a “green thumb” and is a member of the National Daylily Society.
    Her plants have won medals each year for the past 2 or 3 years and she looks forward to the awards each June at the Barnwell Center.
    I trust you enjoy this article and will join Hernswood Nursery website to get further articles as you love to read and write articles. Remember, it is in the “Garden We Grow” and it is in the Valley where the Lord can call us to rest and grow in Him.
    There are hundreds of Christian songs and choruses with the theme “In the Valley” – I think of one that has – “He leads me beside still waters – somewhere in the Valley below – He calls me aside to protect me and guide – it is in the Valley, I grow. Those are not the exact words; however, you can see the meaning of growing in the Valley with the Lord.
    Enough said…
    Blessings and Happy Gardening,
    Shirley Weaver

  4. Donna said:

    January is the best month of the year……….It is quite, peaceful and the best time to plan for your garden…… gives us time to ponder what has been, what will be….in the garden this year……..Ahhhh……….walk quietly amongsth the snow….breath in the clear cold air…..appreciate the earth as she sleeps…..and love what blessings………we have to look forward to.

  5. Ron said:

    This last year I doubled my gardening space and my sense of good and accomplishment quadrupled. This year I already have seeds to increase my garden many times over – would you believe I have over two hundred separate seeds – of all kinds. I also made a resolution to begin propagating my perennials from seeds – I have those seeds.


  6. TC said:

    I’ve got a book that’s in the works. I’d like to resolve to get it written this year. Is such a resolution doomed to “dissolve into a pile of psychic rubble?” Do I have control over whether or not a publishing house sees my idea as worthy enough? And then there’s self-publishing; this route seems to be the one where you have non-licensed drivers crowding the highway. I can upload my entire manuscript to and….publish? Is self-publishing publishing or justifiable vanity? Or might it be a revolutionary resolution made in hopes of becoming a “published” author? Where or how might I find the surest way to fulfill my resolution?

  7. I do so enjoy your stories! This one is the best yet! How fortunate you are to work in a garden and have the gift of writing as well! You have my most sincere thanks for sharing! May God bless you and yours in this coming year!

  8. luzia said:

    I love it. I am planning to spend more time in my garden. My problem is to maitain the interest when gets so hot and uncmfortable outside.
    I also have to make a commitment to make my projects more manageable, and not want to plant all the new plants that the nurseries market so well.
    Gardening is a way to release some of the stress of daily living.
    Keep up the good writings, is soul searching for me.

  9. Monica said:

    What a deightful New Years log entry. Gardening is indeed the solution to the best of resolutions; the synthesis!

  10. Sharon Konklin said:

    Mr. Ball, I enjoyed “The Garden of Promises Kept”
    Reading it was reaffirming. I have returned home; to my garden and a new beginning. I have twenty years of plantings here. My family and friends close by again, at last! As I look out my window at the frozen Pocono January, I am thinking of spring…May your resolutions by revolutionary too. Thanks

  11. Laura said:

    This was a very inspiring post.
    Kudos & Happy New Year!

  12. Carolyn said:

    I enjoyed your thoughts very much. But my biggest problem is that I need more land. My half acre is well planted and without frequent pruning would be terribly overgrown. I’m going to try to get a plot in the town organic garden.
    Happy New Year and here’s to a great season!!

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