With a Grand Solar Minimum staring us in the face, it’s important to understand that gardening is not for some other persons in a future time. It can be meant for each of us, right here, right now, with a desire to help something grow and change a small spot on earth while continuing to thrive. And no matter what our beliefs seem to be, gardening brings out a little bit of the spiritual in all of us. Gardening doesn’t just enhance the environment but us too, as we are one of the factors in the cosmos of growing things, so we most obviously are changed and can be even more so if we are paying attention to the details. We become gentle revolutionaries believing in all life great and small, as our thinking changes about how things work. With this opening of our minds and hopefully our hearts, it creates a symbiosis for our personal gardening history which includes memories. These memories can fuel why we seem to be here in the first place – to create and especially to experience.
With the memories of last year’s garden keeping me company, I have to say that I could be better about the impatience I feel as the snow and cold hang on to the raised beds. I love having my hands in dirt, and though I am ready to hang up my rubber palmed gloves mid-October, by March, I can hardly wait to go at it again. It is about that time, I have forgotten the humidity and mosquitoes. Like a mother that gives birth, I can’t quite remember the pain of lifting the bags of compost, heavy pots, gravel and bending over weeds for hours on end. Then there is the canning, dehydrating, washing, cutting, dicing and slicing the bounty so that it can be eaten throughout the year (yes we still have root veggies and frozen strawberries along with our canned goods). And even if I could remember the hard work, I would quickly realize that of course, it is all worth it.
But what the garden truly gives me are memories of a much more personal nature. As I think back to the year we moved to Harsens Island, we not only had our garden cat, Buddy on detail but he had a calico to pal around with, our beloved, Cricket. Between the two of them, not a mouse, rabbit, mole or any other living thing had a chance in hell surviving once it came within the perimeters of the garden. Cricket was so good at her job that we named the garden after her because she loved it more than being inside even on a cold rainy day. Cricket is no longer with us, having eaten something that took her quickly. I can look out our kitchen window, overlooking the pond and still see her walking along the cedar beds, patrolling the area for invaders. But worse of all, Buddy missed her terribly so watching him go it alone was a bit heartbreaking.
Another casualty of our garden pets was, Howie. Now don’t be fooled by the name, Howie, who it turned out, was female. Of course, we didn’t know that small detail until a visit to the vet because Howie was a box turtle. And by then we had called her Howie for too long to shift to another name like, Howette! Howie traveled cross country with us in in her portable aquarium. She was abandoned in Seattle, rescued by our neighbor Bill, only to pawn her off on us. But we quickly fell in love with her, especially, Joe as it triggered young memories of growing up, living on the lake. I imagine, he being solitary by nature, that it meant turtles and frogs were boyhood companions. He would fuss over her well-being, giving her weekly “tub time” and making sure she had her favorite melon. The spring of that year, I got a brilliant idea of letting Howie live in the greenhouse. She loved it, until one day, she found a crack between the ground and the frame, somehow squeezing out, shell and all. I know turtles are slow, but there is something to that fable of the determined turtle beating the hare over the finish line, because she was nowhere to be found. Joe still really doesn’t like to talk about it so we have taken the high road of living in the positive, convinced she is in the ravine behind the ½ acre of garden.
But the sweetest memories are always of my husband, Joe, working in the garden. As I write this, I have such a clear picture in my mind of him sitting on an overturned plastic bucket, trimming his heirloom tomatoes, fussing over each branch, unraveling them from each other as he puts them in their cages so they will have support for the rest of their growth. I kid him, and tell him that he really isn’t Jewish, but Italian as those damn tomatoes seem to be a part of his DNA. Each day, his skin becomes a deeper shade of brown, ball cap a bit more frayed, the dirt under his nails a little harder to dig out and most importantly, it opens my heart. Seeing Joe, happy, at peace with his hands in dirt, helping things grow, hits every note of loving him more. His interchange with the garden and the animals continuously shows me, that somehow I chose the perfect man in a complete moment of divine clarity.
In this co-existent journey with nature, we find that each season has a spirit of its own. Spring is full of energy and hope, summer offers endurance, autumn is for gratitude, and winter harbors a sense of reflection. Since gardening cuts across the distinctive seasons it takes on a different character with each month of the calendar and virtually each week. With this as a backdrop, it colors and feeds the memories of what I love the most. All of this of course, is not just the action of what I am doing but always a metaphor for life. Though we may have heard it a hundred times, it doesn’t make it any less true, and that is we reap what we sow and what we sow, bears fruit. And every time I have heard it, I really haven’t realized how it is applicable to my daily life, because I just don’t think about it in those terms. But I could never have imagined that what it means for me is that reaping is the awareness, sowing – the hard work, and the fruit – a fullness of love. As I continue to garden, and fall more deeply in love with everything and everyone around me, I wish you these upcoming months to have the strength and means to prepare along with a truly bountiful year…. as you too bear the fruit of what you reap and sow because while you live fully inside every second of your incredible life because honestly every single one of us deserves at least that.
With all of my love, from my garden to yours