Sunday, June 1, 2008

Like a little seed

(I know, two posts in two days! It boggles the mind! Anyway. . .)

I love to watch things grow. I would say that I love to garden, but I don't actually garden. People who garden know plant varieties and sow their seeds in neat little rows and mounds. They understand terms like "vermiculite" and "drip system". They actually spend time on their knees weeding. I don't do any of that.

What I do do is watch things grow. Every spring, as I anxiously wait for the robins to return and the buds to appear on my trees, I find myself going outside and poking the ground. I go around to the different parts of my yard to see if any of them have softened yet. As little green daffodil shoots pop out of my dirt a primal urge awakens inside me. I must start digging. Of course, the dirt it is still frozen solid and out here in Colorado the frost danger doesn't disappear until May so my desire is thwarted.

It is then that I go to the greenhouse. My kids run in crazy circles while I stand in the humid mist and soak up the bright colors. Soon, I soothe myself, soon. I pick up packets of seeds like they are loaves of bread and I am in Communist Russia. Greedily I hoard the spinach, the peas, the basil. These are the seeds that I can never get enough of, that the stores always run out of. I pick up pumpkins and zucchini, cucumbers and cantaloupe, fantasizing about their colors and smells. Then I take them home and, counting the packets, I wait.

Finally, in late April, I can dig. I buy bag after bag of mushroom compost waking up my muscles as I heft them around the yard. I pull out our bags of leaves from last fall. I bury my nose their scent, letting it wash over me as if it were Chanel No. 5. I start digging up the compost pile, ignoring the rank globs that fall on my feet. I dump and mix and dig and sweat. This is what is means to be alive.

Everything is ready to plant. I check my strawberries to make sure they have the room they need and that their runners are all running in the right direction. I tuck my tomato starts in, folding some compost around their roots for extra comfort. The zucchini, pumpkins, squash, cucumbers and melons all get plopped in their own areas two or three seeds at time just in case one decides not to wake up this year. Broccoli, radishes, spinach and carrots are sprinkled willy-nilly across the shadier portions of the garden. Their seeds cross paths in the air and I have to smooth them down into the dirt to make sure the birds don't eat them. My kids, caught up in the excitement, dig and plant with me glorying in every worm and marveling at each ant. It takes at least a week, sometimes more, to get every thing in the ground.

We water and wait. We water and talk. Please little plants, grow, grow, grow. It is like a prayer and my heart is anxious. What if they don't sprout? What will our summer be without these plants?

Then, every morning is like my birthday. It's like a scavenger hunt as we search the ground for new sprouts. We count them and celebrate them. As my garden fills with shoots and leaves I am filled with child-like awe at the resiliency of our earth. No matter how cold the winter, no matter how late the frost, no matter how hard the earth, new life comes. Each plant is a revelation--a testimony. And I was lucky enough to be a part of it.

From there it is wildness. I relinquish control. Some years I forget to cage my tomatoes and they grow up and out and down and everywhere, romas mixing with cherries mixing with beefsteak. The pumpkins and zucchini and cucumbers battle for ground and eventually grow in and through each other. Spinach and broccoli and carrots all grow together like the salad they are. The peas and strawberries come up quick and sweet and are eaten so fast they never make it into the house. Every time a leaf is lifted it reveals a different treasure.

From my garden I harvest more than food. It allows God to work His will in my life in one more way. My plants grow faith and happiness, making what is intangible real. I cannot be thankful enough.

Do any of you guys watch things grow like I do? What have you planted this year?


Heathie said...

Laura, I love how you worded everything in this post. It brought a smile to my lips and tears to my eyes.
I haven't done much planting at my house; I have a few flowers, and four strawberry plants that I'm hoping will turn in to a great ground cover. (I need to pick a corner of my yard to plant a garden in and just go for it, but I'm feeling daunted by the task.)
I have a "naked lady" (amaryllis belladonna) that was here when we bought the house. I love watching it throughout the summer. It starts in the spring looking like daffodil leaves, then grows to look like a big spider plant. In July all the leaves will die and disappear, and by August a single stalk will emerge with 4-5 clusters of pale pink lily-like blooms. It's my favorite plant ever.

Sabrina said...

I love gardening too! I'm no master at it - I don't know what vermiculite means, or whatever that word is. But I love the miracle of planting a bunch of seeds, and seeing different kinds of plants emerge and produce food to eat. It is soo cool. We just got our garden in last week, so I'm still hoping something will emerge from the ground. I can't WAIT for my fresh basil and tomatoes!!!

Kelly said...

I am very very good at growing weeds. Beyond that, I can grow zucchini, which is apparently a weed, since they thrive nearly everywhere I live, and nothing else does.

I confess I hate pulling weeds, I hate the heat of summer, and I hate the wasps and mosquitoes I have to fight with in order to garden.

But I love flowers and fresh fruit and veggies. So apparently I need to hire a gardener...
Love your blog!

Laura said...

Heathie-You are too kind! I want an amaryllis belladonna--if only for the cool name. I wonder what people would do if I told them I planted naked ladies in our backyard. I can't wait to see yours when we come to visit!

Sabrina--mmm, basil and tomatoes, mmm, (I think I'm in a garden veggie coma now :)

Kelly--I hate weeding too, so I don't do it! Usually in Spring I spend a couple weeks pulling out weeds and then I give up. Turns out stuff grows anyway. If you're tired of just zucchini try pumpkins. They also grow like weeds!

Charlotte said...

Beautifully written! You've inspired me to go out and muck around in my garden now:) Right now we're attempting to grow lots of stuff but only succeeding with the strawberries. Sigh.