Author’s Note: This is the second part of the garden saga, introduced in this post. I hope this gives a little encouragement to engage with the process and know it doesn’t have to look pretty to yeild results worth working for.
6:30 p.m. July 24
Exiting my kitchen, I noted that the heat of the day remained, but patches of shade now surrounded my garden. Half an hour later, feeling sweat, heat, and some fatigue, I knew I needed a break. I finished pulling back the rock and pounding in some posts, I sat on my back step to let the shade and breeze take their effect.
I let my eyes wander, noting the violets taking over the flower bed, all the more evident because they survived the hailstorm whereas my other flowers did not.
I could sit in the shade of the tree that overlooks that flowerbed and start pulling those… But no, I needed my time and energy for the fence. Violets look just fine, as far as invasive plants go.
I contemplated the tree and the space where I might build the “treehouse” (read: platform) my sons wanted. We’d have to keep our weekends open in August if that were to have a chance.
I considered our outdoor table, a wooden one that needed repair – the whole top needed replacing.
“Whatcha doin’, mama?” My 4-year-old had decided kicking a soccer ball with his brother wasn’t his idea and fun and decided to come around back. His high-pitched voice and simple inquiry pulled my reflections away from the mounting list of projects.
“Oh, just sitting and thinking,” I said. “Taking a break.”
“Thinkin’ ‘bout what?” He asked.
“That table over there. The top needs replacing.”
“It’s kind of rotten. Mushrooms grew out of it this year.”
“Oh….” he contemplated that response for a moment. “Why?”
“Well, I thought I finished the wood correctly, but I guess I didn’t put enough coating on it.”
He stood next to me for a minute, then picked up a coil of clothes line that had fallen down and started pulling it around.
“These are my horse weights. I use this to steer horses,” he informed me.
“Oh, your reigns?” I prompted.
“Yeah, you can get into this loop and be my horse if you want.”
“Oh, no thanks, I’m still working on my garden.”
He pulled the line around the yard a bit more, then ran off to his next endeavor.
My surroundings filled my thoughts with a thousand different projects that could be done, that should be done, but I remained focused.
I can’t do it all, but I can do one thing.
I stood up and pulled on my gloves, a bit stiff and dirty from being left out in the garden. My fingers brushed up against the gritty pebbles left inside. Pulling the plastic from the roll of wire, I pulled the resistant material out of its tight coil to a somewhat straight line along one side of the garden. The points scratched my arms, which I endured. At least it wasn’t quite as hot, and I didn’t want to spend the time grabbing a long-sleeve shirt.
As I finished, my husband took the boys in for their showers. I tidied up, shut the shed door, and left my garden for the night.
Tomorrow, I plant. We’ll see what a 3rd planting can yield.
9:30 a.m. August 25
A month later, I opened class with an invitation to writing: name one thing that you are proud about.
The students in front of me opened their now-blank notebooks, not realizing how this type of reflective writing would soon overtake their lives.
I wrote on the fence I put up and the results I’d witnessed over the intervening weeks. Just recently, I’d looked out the kitchen window, beholding a sea of green, not of food-yielding plants, but of weeds carpeting the spaces left open after the birds plucked away my 3rd planting. I had sighed, resigned to the continued failure, yet another obstacle I’d have to plan for (a net to keep the birds out while seeds germinated). Prior to this moment in class, I’d also neglected my garden again, discouraged by the pittance that sprouted, exhausted by the demands of a new school year.
As the students shared out their pride points, many mentioned either graduating high school, or being the first in their family to go to college, or both. Students also shared athletic achievements or recent challenges, like moving far from home to pursue their degree. I sat amazed as they shared out, realizing the accomplishments they’d already achieved before even getting into their courses.
When it came to me, I shared:
“I put up a fence around my garden earlier this summer, because the bunnies kept eating my plants. I planted a bunch of stuff late in the summer, but only six bean plants came up. The birds ate the rest of the beans and corn and squash seeds. It’s honestly kind of pathetic, and it’s covered in weeds, but the bunnies have been kept out, and I’m proud about that.”
After class that day, I returned home, driving through country highways from the town where I taught to the town where I lived. Fields of corn, soybean and milo rose on gently curving hills and spread toward the horizon, some golden, russet, some still green. A few fields had withering corn sprouting between shorter green soybean rows – the late-spring hailstorm forcing replanting on a large scale for some.
That evening, I looked out my kitchen window again, finishing the dishes for the day. My eyes narrowed, my lips firmed, my shoulders settled as I felt a lift in my chest. Those six plants, they would yield.
Stepping out the door, I put on my crusted gloves and headed to the garden once more.