COURTESY OF SMITHA MAHESH
The above scrapbook documents Mahesh’s gardening achievements, from herbs in her apartment to the garden her significant other Alex maintains.
In my freshman year at Hopkins, I did my first service project through Baltimore First. Every other week I would visit Carmine Gardens, tend to the crops and maintain the landscape for sustainable growth. I befriended Hopkins alumni who taught me about the value of civic engagement and working with the community. I also learned how to use gardening tools to shape the land and how to design a sustainable and affordable community garden.
Whether it was a blazing hot or freezing cold day in Baltimore, I found the utmost joy working in the community garden with the surrounding neighbors and residents of the city. In fact, one of my favorite memories is spending a quiet, sunny day stringing lines to encourage the peas to grow while talking to community neighbors about how their day was going and our shared passion for gardening.
After freshman year, I started to participate in other service projects and went on a journey to figure out what I was passionate about. I’ve discovered that I’m passionate about studying the ethics of health policy and serving my community through sustainable, equitable means. Unfortunately, however, I couldn’t find time to return to Carmine Gardens while pursuing my other interests, and I wasn’t able to pursue my love in gardening in other ways. The closest thing I had was visiting other gardens and spending time admiring the hard work and compassionate efforts that goes into flower gardens.
But in all the crazy things that have happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, I have found time to return to my love for gardening. Initially I spent hours tending “digital gardens,” working on farmlands and flower gardens in various video games such as Stardew Valley, Animal Crossing, Equinox and Minecraft. But it just didn’t feel like enough! And so, to celebrate my 21st birthday, I spent the day purchasing flowers and transplanting them into the ground and into pots. Soon after this I began investing my time and energy into constructing a herb and vegetable garden with my significant other, Alex. When I wasn’t remotely interning, I would dash outside, water the plants and add more herbs and vegetables.
Now that Zoom Hopkins has started, I have only been able to tend to the large herb and vegetable gardens on weekends. On weekdays, I step out of Zoom calls to water my large basil, oregano and pepper plants and trim the plants whenever I need herbs or peppers for my dishes. This small interaction of gardening in my apartment makes me so excited to cook. I have also found joy sharing my hobby with my friends. We discuss how our plants are growing and our interest in getting and growing new plants!
As winter approaches, I am not saddened by the prospect of cold weather shrinking my opportunity to garden. Rather, I am excited to experiment with various forms of indoor gardening such as hydroponics or larger indoor gardening systems. All in all, I have found more time to explore the art of gardening and witness how tending to my gardens has led to my own self growth in a beautiful, serene way.