May 24, 2020 § 3 Comments
In our current isolation we reach out to each other virtually. We lean, with longing, toward the screen as if it were a window (we are such social animals).
We are also domesticated indoor animals, techno-animals—but not to this degree. We still like to be physically close to others, not locked in our private towers.
But if we can’t congregate, hug a friend, worship together, celebrate graduation, or gather on poker night, we can open the door and walk outside.
And since we are doing-animals, while out there, we can grow something.
Growing something, in contrast to clicks and keystrokes which move nothing in the real world, creates physical change.
A garden is a literal place.
The gritty dirt, the persistent weeds, the sprawl and tang of tomatoes, the ire of disturbed ants, the weight of sun on bare arms; all are solid-real as the gardener works on a project that responds to sweat-labor, but also to the uncontrollable elements of weather, season, time, and biology.
All we control in the garden is our own, human input, and every one of those inputs is administered by hand so there is dirt under our fingernails. The skin is cracked. Weeds are heartier than the gardener’s desired crop, grow twice as fast, reach for the heart of the earth, and stubbornly hang on as the gardener leans back, muscling them out of the dirt. When the sky withholds, water comes out of a hose held for as long as it takes to soak soil deep—gardeners have a lot of time to think.
And as the gardener thinks, the garden offers lessons.
One of those lessons is humility. Plants don’t care about the gardener’s desires or schedule.
They grow slowly—or they boom.
They thrive—or they don’t.
The gardener can’t dictate which, but is allowed to take credit and swell with pride when harvesting those sun-warmed tomatoes—also allowed is a profound cussing of the bugs, the weather, and the plants themselves.
Gardeners think. And gardeners cuss.
Each growing season is unique. More heat. Less heat. More rain. Less rain. A plague of insects. Insects that only take their share—there are always insects. Organic gardeners understand that tithing to them is part of the deal.
Days pass. Plants sprawl. The pandemic drags on, but if all goes well, as each plant reaches its zenith it will inundate the gardener with too many tomatoes, squash, peppers. Overwhelmed, the gardener will freeze, pickle–and share, even if that share has to be left in a box on a doorstep.
Hopefully, we will have access to each other in person before too many months have passed, but until then, the natural world offers us its company, its lessons, an opportunity to think and cuss, a bounty to share even if we cannot cook and eat it together, and this reminder: we are still residents of Eden, even if it is buggier and requires us to invest more sweat than the Bible led us to believe.
Note: As I walk my neighborhood I see pots of tomatoes edging driveways, fresh-turned garden patches in the middle of lawns that weren’t there prior to the pandemic.
Note 2: Take a listen to The Okra Song. I began writing it as I held a hose in the community garden, the sun beating down—there was more cussing than thought involved until I got home to my guitar.