Karen Miller has a special mission: to steward the Rondout and Liberty Street Community Gardens. Conveniently located in Kingston, both areas boast rectangular raised beds of fertile soil, a watering system, and opportunities to get your hands dirty while helping the Earth in a positive way. Miller hopes that these gardens will relieve residents of stress, so that these special places will offer them something in return other than a tangible product.

Miller sees community gardens as a way for people to “have success at what they are doing, that they see their efforts, and that whatever they put in there, they get something out of it. I want people to come back because they feel good about themselves. It’s exciting that they get excited.”

A local resident interested in the gardens called Miller one day and asked for two plots. Miller calls him her “wow guy.” He figured spending time gardening with his ill wife would enhance their relationship and give them something meaningful they could share during an emotionally turbulent time in their lives. Unfortunately, his wife died before they could start together, but he continues to tend the most productive patch on Liberty Street. There’s something therapeutic, digging deep, getting your hands into the soil.

Even children can benefit from the fruits of gardening. Miller hopes that adults who burrow sections of allotted land and soil—solely at the Rondout—will relay practices to children, such as youthful interest in weeding or watering. For example, Miller watched a mother come to the Liberty Street garden recently to show her child the flowers in bloom. The mother put the compost in the flowers and spoke of the purpose of her actions while the child watched. Miller believes that teaching children important life lessons early on is essential towards healthy growth. “I encourage the kids to come and help.”

Miller states that she gets personal pleasure from gardening: a way to recycle a day’s worth of stress or negativity and harness a positive sustenance that heals the mind and body. Miller is mindful when she gardens, “I am a sensualist person. I love the feel of the soil, the smell of the soil. And I like that when I plant something that there is a vegetable or plant that comes from it. I also like the feeling of having a little bit of control of where you put a plant, but also the lack of control.” This perspective has a spiral effect into other areas of life, being aware of control is central in developing a realistic sense of the world. Paradoxically, she hopes people “will lose themselves in gardening,” so that they can pay more attention to things that are in the immediate surroundings and not worry about the past or future. Gardening allows us to develop a sense of where we are, who we are, and what we are doing. It’s about digging deep, making a connection, simply being in that moment with nature.

Miller hopes these personal successes and life lessons wrought by gardening will provide fertile ground for future development and joy in unexpected ways. When life’s struggles and stressors cloud our outlook, gardening can cultivate something rich and beautiful within. This light can yield good energy for others to connect with—and therefore create roots in sustainability and livability in an increasingly digital, abstract world.

Residents interested in gardening a raised bedsat either location can email Karen Miller to get started.  Beds are $5 and include access to the garden space, compost, and a fair share of weeds. Bring your own plants, seedlings, seeds, and garden tools; water provided at both locations.