In the Garden

Today was opening day in my garden as well as on the baseball fields around the country. It was my first real work day of the season in the community garden I have been cultivating for the last three years. I shoveled dirt to set up some new beds and walk paths, preparing for season four in the garden. We are constructing a barrier against the Bermuda grass that has crept its way into my garden with increasing vigor over the last two years. Right now it is just dirt. In the next few days the dirt will be worked into even smoother paths and more evenly raised beds, and cardboard and mulch laid down around the perimeter. And then, I will plant. I was reminded of this piece I wrote last year, and decided to share it here, as I anticipate another season of growth in the garden. "I have been gardening lately. Actually, that is too lofty a description for what I do. That conjures a picture of someone outfitted with a proper gardener’s hat and gloves and maybe even one of those expensive long-sleeved shirts that protect you from skin cancer and keep you cool at the same time. Or just the right tools from Smith and Hawken. Or maybe even some new, hip, organic way of growing food and raising fish and recycling your rain water all at the same time. I am doing none of this. I found an empty lot, convinced a man with a tractor to till it, went to the local feed store and bought some seeds. My rows aren’t even straight; my tomatoes are neither subdued by stakes nor carefully caged. My honeydew is too close to my zucchini and despite my daily rerouting is a bit clingy to its neighbor. I battle weeds with an old hoe found in our ancient garage, owned by the ancient man who preceded us. I am clad in old tennis shoes and a pair of my son’s old soccer shorts and a T-shirt. My ungloved hands are calloused. It is far from glamorous. Or hip. But some days, it is good.

Gardens are spiritual places. God chose to begin life there. And it was good. New life arising from the garden soil. And God chose to redeem life there. And it was good. New life rising from the garden soil.

They are places of hope. And growth. And nourishment. Mouth-watering food on my plate just months after dropping two dollars’ worth of tiny seeds into a hole. It is almost that simple. Well, except for the weeding, and watering. And the dirty hands. And the weeds. And the ants. And the weeds.

Gardens are places of learning, too. Down-to-earth lessons, like calculating the potential sprawl of indeterminate tomatoes, and just how big a red squash can actually grow, and making sure the bean seeds your neighbor gave you aren’t the kind that need a trellis constructed for their upwardly mobile tendencies.

And spiritual lessons, like people are more important than pumpkins, when a passerby prematurely plucks the single surviving pumpkin you have been pandering to for months. And how, like relationships, you can’t help anything grow without being intentional. Or nurturing. Or providing refreshment. Or getting your hands dirty. And how our own lives need careful cultivation to produce good fruit. And how they need little or nothing to produce weeds. And how quickly weeds grow. And how difficult it is to remove those weeds. And how quickly they come back. Without even trying.

It is often in gardens that we make connections; to other gardeners as we work the ground together, to the earth as we recognize its richness, and especially to our Master Gardener, who does good things everywhere, but is especially handy in the garden."