Courage enough.

May 24, 2013 § 4 Comments

I kneel in our vegetable garden, weeding.

The damp from the sandy soil would soak through the knees of my jeans if they had any, but both are blown.

My own winter-pale knees poke out, easy targets for the fire ants that share this southern garden.

Despite the ants, the jeans and I have been vegetable gardeners for a long time.

As I do every year when spring yields to summer, I am weeding, mulching, disrupting ants with a hand hoe and comparing this to other times in the garden.

Last year I hobbled around this garden on a walker, the handle of a plastic bucket slung over my arm. When I got to where I was going I’d upend the bucket and sit on it. Having broken my pelvis in a car wreck, sitting on the ground and a landing on Mars seemed equally difficult.

It was harder to observe last year’s garden I was so consumed with not falling down—imagine explaining to the doctor that I’d messed up his work weeding the tomatoes, but in a disaster-free gardening season I can be very present. And being present is important.

While it seems as if the gardener is in charge, imposing their will on what would otherwise be a weedy, buggy, exuberant patch, the garden is actually a place of give-and-take. A conversation.

Whole again now, I am better able to listen, and to observe this particular gardening season.

Spring has faltered this year. A few warm days, followed by unseasonable cold. The cold snaps baffled the blueberries. There won’t be as many this year, but since we had no hard freezes while they were in flower we will have some.

The peppers, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers I’ve set out are baffled too. They haven’t responded to being put in the ground with loping growth, that no-time-like-the-present urge to grow fast, bloom and set seed; their shot at immortality.

They stood for quite a while growing barely at all. It was as if the plants recognized that this was not a season in which they could prosper. Instead of wasting energy futilely they endured.

As conditions improve, the plants will make their run for it. Given the slow start, this won’t rival the vegetable gardens of favorable years, but these plants will use the sunlight, warmth and water that come their way to be as fruitful as the season allows.

In the cold dry seasons of life I’ve always struggled to go forward, to overcome. I wonder now whether there is more wisdom in learning to recognize when simple survival is courage enough.

Is it pride that makes humans think we can beat the season?

Consumed with self, we are less likely to turn outward and judge our chances given the prevailing conditions. We believe that our exceptionality will allow us to beat the odds.

As a writer, those are the stories I tell, polishing the myth that humans are built to triumph over adversity.

Plants follow a less grandiose plan. Whether many or few, they take full advantage of their days in the sun.

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§ 4 Responses to Courage enough.

  • craig reeder says:

    Your comment about our belief in our own “exceptionality” really made me stop and think. I wonder if our ability to believe in exceptionality is precisely what makes us exceptional….. could it be some kind of self-fullfilling phenomenon? Or are we just exceptionally deluded? A philosopher once said that the only evidence to support our notion that we are superior to other animals is the fact that none of them have ever bothered to contest the proposition. Don’t know. But I never heard of any animal that could write a blog this good. Exceptionally good. 🙂

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    • I wonder whether we have invented the concept of superiority. Is any other species self-aware enough to bother with making comparisons? While self-awareness makes joy possible, it is also darned uncomfortable.

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  • richardn889 says:

    My wife has a pot garden every year. This year will be one of the best we’ve had in a long time. We got more tomatoes and cucumbers than ever. But I’m not really bragging. In recent years are gardens have been so poor, anything looks good to us. We are eating the cukes already. They’re great.

    At our age (my wife and I) survival is it. Enjoy every day and hope there will be a tomorrow. Nice reflections, thoughtful. Take care.

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  • “Pot garden” gave me momentary pause, but I got over it.

    Would it be very human to say I’m jealous of your cukes? Mine are the stubbiest little plants, totally lacking in ambition.

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