05 August 2010

Tending Gardens...

It's been awhile. I almost forgot how to blog. A lot has happened since my last post - I believe in that one I had just announced the happy news that my daughter had become engaged way, way back in March 2009. Eons ago. As I write this, her wedding is just a hair over two months away.

When last we met, my son was preparing for his wedding in June. Justin and Stephanie have now been married one year and two months. They had a beautiful ceremony on Wrightsville Beach and a lovely, quiet reception in our backyard.

A lot has taken place in the past seventeen months. It's been a wonderful period of time. We've all grown in our individual ways and I'm not going to even attempt to pack it all into a synopsis, rather, I think I'll just write the first things that come to my mind because trying to recount history sounds more like an assignment and I've decided that writing should be more fun than that.

So here we are in early August 2010. It's hot here in the South and I love this time of year, though June and July are absolutely more favored months because there's more of summer to be spent. By August, we start hearing about fall and those silly "back to school" advertisements run ad nauseum. I used to dread that time of year. I never looked forward to relinquishing my summers. I gave them up kicking and screaming. I still feel like that. I'm not one of those people who can whole-heartedly enjoy Fall because of the looming winter that follows it. Summer fits me so much better.

This summer in particular, I have thrown myself into gardening. Flowers and vegetables have captured my attention. I have spent more time this summer with my hands in the dirt than ever before in my previous 50 years of life. I find myself entranced, mystified how you can pop a small seed into dirt and wind up with something as miraculous as a cucumber, tomato, cone-flower or daisy. It's incredible to me. I know it's been going on since forever, but for some reason I am new to this garden party and I just can't believe how crazy cool it is. Sometimes I walk out in the back yard and I just look around at an area that I seeded maybe six weeks or two months ago and I am thunderstruck to discover there are plants, blossoms, edible veggies where there once was a few weeds and black dirt. It's just nothing short of a miracle to me. I mean that with all sincerity.

Every evening after dinner, I grab a cup of coffee and Cassie and we do a walk about - making a wide circle through the back lawn...always stopping first at the "black eyed Susan" triangle which flanks the west end of the pool, bedazzled in yellow petals and dark chocolate centers, growing almost as if in a perfect sphere with some purple wave petunias garnishing the edges. Cassie seems as wide-eyed as me as we peruse the petals.

Then we amble over to the "true garden" behind the proper fence and through the morning-gloried gable. Inside there, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, mint and yes, big, beautiful canteloupes sit among the weeds and atop the soil. WOW. I can't help but whip out my Android and snap some shots of the bounty. I remember when those things were tiny seeds scattered in soil and they didn't show much promise at all or elude in any way to what they were destined to become. Who knew? Well, God of course. But I sure didn't. Even though I knew that planting can sometimes result in a harvest, I just didn't think it could happen to me. Not to any ground I clumsily tilled and dug around in. I considered myself to the far left of amateurish status and in a way I still do...viewing myself much greener than whatever tint my thumb might be, but there's the evidence and gosh darn it, stuff's growing all over the place in ways I can barely fathom. And I got to be the lucky girl who stuck the seeds in and had fun getting my hands dirty. Now, I'm starting to eat cucumbers and tomatoes that have emerged from that plat. Seriously - I stare at it all and I am incredulous. Baby, I'm amazed!

It's both a source of pride and a lesson in humility, all at the very same time because in reality, hands and elbow grease are merely tools...like rakes and shovels and sprinkler systems. Gardening has both empowered me and reminded me of my place, all at the same time. I didn't create the miracle of life at all, but I sure got lucky enough to get my hands in it!

How did it take me 50 years to figure this out? I don't know, and I don't really even care; I'm just glad I arrived at all.

It touches every single sense I have - I get to feel the dirt with my hands, smell the flowers and fresh produce, see the results with my eyes, listen to the crunch as I bite down on a ripe cucumber and taste the finished product. All of that from a seed. Is that mind-boggling or what?

It is addictive. Some evenings I have no intention of getting dirty and I may innocently reach down to pull just one weed or pluck a spent flower, and then before I know it, I'm on my knees regardless of what I'm wearing, and I am pulling dollar weeds and crab grass to beat the band and then I just give up and if I start out with a lot of concerns or worries, they wind up with the pulled weeds and my mind magically clears. There's nothing more to it - it just happens and no pharmaceutical company can compound or design a drug that can impart anything close to the feeling of clearing a patch of flowers or veggies of weeds and it's calming effect on one's mind...on one's soul. Side effects? You may have to use a nail brush and gritty soap to remove a little debris. No prescription required.

It's just plain good for you. It's so good for me that I have now decided that when this crop is finished, I am going to plant a fall garden - and in making that decision, I have ordered seed catalogs, a garden book from The Farmer's Almanac and a lot of googling of "best plants for fall planting in Zone 8". I've decided that just because summer will be shutting down, my garden doesn't have to and I'm not about to give up the great effects this summer of tending the garden has bestowed upon me. No way. I've got plans to plow it up and set new seeds and be dazzled all over again.

And that is what I'm up to these dog days of summer. I get up, I go to work, I get excited around 4:00 and I look forward to coming home, eating a bite and getting into my old shorts and t-shirts and playing in the dirt. If the rain precludes my plans, I just assume that God has decided that my crops need an extra drink and I need a rest...its become one of my healthiest obsessions. It bespeaks calm and it seems to spill over into many other areas in my life and I am grateful for that. A garden seems to produce more than beauty and nutrition...it's feeding me in other ways and satisfying hungers I didn't even know that I had.

Green is good. God is great!