Spending time in nature has always sparked joy for Marie. Her deep reverence for the earth is evident in her tidying philosophy – and the belief that all objects have energy and are worthy of care and respect.
Recently, she’s been communing with nature in her own backyard – in her first-ever vegetable garden. We asked her about the ways in which gardening is like tidying, what her desert-island vegetables are and if she’d ever raise chickens.
You’ve shared that if you could switch jobs with anyone for a day, it would be with a farmer. Why? Do you have a lot of experience with gardening?
I started gardening about a year ago. When I lived in Japan, I grew herbs inside – but it didn’t work out very well. Now that I live in L.A. I have space for an outdoor garden for the first time. I’m fascinated by growing things! I would love to trade places with a farmer – for the chance to absorb their knowledge and to spend the day outside.
What did you plant first?
I stuck to the basics – tomatoes, kale and celery; my kids chose celery – they love it! We also have a lemon tree, which I visit daily so I can add lemon to our water – such a simple luxury.
What’s your gardening schedule?
I go in the morning before it gets too hot, and then again in the late afternoon. Right now there’s not too much to harvest, so visiting the garden is like going on a mini-retreat – it’s a chance for me to relax, connect with the earth and make sure the plants are healthy.
Do you talk to your plants?
I do! I don’t have names for them – yet – but I ask them how they’re doing and give them encouragement. It feels very natural to me – an extension of how I talk to my belongings and thank them for their support; I believe our possessions last longer and work harder for us when we acknowledge how vital they are. The same is certainly true for plants.
In what other ways is gardening like tidying?
They’re both ways to care for your environment and a chance to realize your ideal lifestyle. Now that I have outdoor space, I think of it as an extension of our home – I want it to spark joy, too! The love and gratitude I give to my belongings is the same as the care and passion I put into my plants. Both practices are mediative and relaxing for me; I feel focused and calm after doing either of them.
Your grandparents had a traditional Japanese Zen garden. What do you remember about it? Did you spend time there, or was it more for observing?
Their garden was very traditional – and very beautiful. It had a large rock in the middle, a small koi pond and a Matsu pine. My grandparents lived in that house until I was four, and I remember sitting on the veranda with my grandmother and just taking it in, which is a typical way to interact with that kind of garden. There was bamboo and lots of greenery – and purple and blue hydrangea. It was very calming.
Describe your dream garden. What does it look like? What would you grow?
I’d like to be able to prepare all of our meals from the garden, so I’d grow…everything! Definitely a big section just for herbs – I make simple herb salads and fresh herbal tea every day. I’d also really like to make Japanese pickled plums – umeboshi – so I’d plant a few plum trees, too.
Having a koi pond would be fun…I appreciate the beauty of Japanese gardens and I enjoy English gardens, too. My dream would be to have different sections of the garden with their own personality and style. That would be really ideal.
What about flowers?
Of course! I would plant flowers that bloom seasonally so we could enjoy them throughout the year.
Would you ever consider raising chickens? What about goats?
I would! I think I’d start with chickens and take it from there. I never considered raising chickens when I lived in Japan, but now I see people doing it in California and my interest is piqued.
Do you think you could live off the grid and grow your own food?
Going completely off the grid would be difficult, but, when it comes to food, I think I could grow most of ours and buy the rest straight from other growers.
Is there a Japanese equivalent for the term “green thumb” – someone who can make seemingly anything grow? Do you think you have one?
In Japan, people just say they’re really good with plants; until recently I wouldn’t have been able to say that, unfortunately! I’ve had a few houseplants that didn’t make it. But from now on, I would like to have a green thumb.
If you could only eat three vegetables for the rest of your life, what would they be?
This is very hard to narrow down. Spinach; shiso – a leaf that’s in the mint family; and pumpkin.
Oh, wait! I forgot about carrots. I eat them everyday – they’re like air. So get rid of spinach. Carrots, shiso and pumpkin. That’s my final answer.
What’s your favorite fruit?
Have you ever tried bonsai?
Not yet, but I’m very interested.
Earthworms – do they spark joy?
Not on their own, but I know they’re important for the health of the planet, so I appreciate them.
If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would you be?
Some kind of root vegetable – like burdock – or maybe a carrot because I eat so many. I know for certain that my husband Takumi is an orange.