Henry Mitchell, in his book One Man’s Garden, observes that “it is not important for a garden to be beautiful” in everyone’s eyes. But “it is extremely important for the gardener to think it is a fair substitute for Eden.” Perhaps this is an overstatement, or perhaps it is a theological truth.
Vigen Guroian, Inheriting Paradise: Meditations on Gardening
I dream I’m harvesting for a salad but the produce looks a bit wonky. I hunt through cucumber vines to find a perfect one, but they’re all misshapen and thin. The radishes are not round when I pull them from the ground; they look like they’ve been munched by voles. With my hands full of second-rate vegetables, I look around for the lettuce. Did I forget to plant lettuce? And how is it that the beets full and firm already?
I wake with a start, unsettled.
Yesterday, as I stood watering my community garden plot, my eyes scanned the soil for signs of life. I spied a few pea and radish sprouts. Nothing yet from the kale, lettuce, and the extra row of spinach I sowed last week. And why is the fall-planted spinach not as far along as that of my neighbour?
I’m guessing that afternoon rumination prompted the dream.
It’s the same thing every year: I worry that my garden is going to be a bust. And yet, in a couple of months, we’ll be enjoying her bounty and marveling at the day-by-day growth. She’ll feed us well through the summer, I’ll tuck away some of her gifts in the freezer and on the canning shelf, and give others away. Half a year from now I’ll be done with the whole thing, ready to clean up and let both of us—the garden and myself—rest over the winter months.
For now I fret. It’s silly and unwarranted, a waste of my energy. Yet in the back of my mind remains a spark of concern that my seeds won’t germinate or we didn’t take good enough care of our soil and it’s become barren.
Gardening, especially at this early stage, is an act of faith. Past experience tells me that this empty plot where the only thing of any significance growing right now is garlic (and the odd persistent weed) will, before long, transform into a lush and beautiful space that will nourish my body and mind. My humanness struggles to believe even though I’ve seen it come to pass year after year.
Even now, in these early days of gardening season, there are lessons to be gleaned there. In this life, as in the garden, we walk by faith and not by sight. What is seen is not necessarily an accurate predictor of what is yet to come. Patience yields reward.
There will be trials (remember last year’s terrible curly leaf tomato disaster?), but we will recover. Some things won’t turn out as we wish (like last year’s yellow turnips), but others will delight us (last year was a great year one for radishes). Thieves might come (Yeah. That.) and present an opportunity for us to grow in character.
With a little more sunshine and a few more warm days things will start happening in the garden. And if the voles eat the root crops and the cucumbers are misshapen, I just bet the tomatoes will be plentiful and the peppers fat and juicy. The garden will grow as it should, all in good time, as we continue to care for it. It will be different from last year but beautiful and bountiful nonetheless.
The Creator’s plans will unfold exactly as intended. I don’t know exactly what it will look like, but I know what I need to know and that is enough.
Your post today reminds me of a quote from Wendell Berry’s Agrarian essays. I saved it from your blog of July 24, 2017 thinking I may use it this spring, but it fits this post better than my any of my recent posts. I love his words about gardening: “. . . he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleaure of eating.”
I had to go back and find that post, and Berry’s words: “Odd as I am sure it will appear to some, I can think of no better form of personal involvement in the cure of the environment than that of gardening. A person who is growing a garden, if he is growing it organically, is improving a piece of the world. He is producing something to eat, which makes him somewhat independent of the grocery business, but he is also enlarging, for himself, the meaning of food and the pleasure of eating.”
Gardening has so many benefits. It nourishes us physically and spiritually; it teaches us theological truth; and, as Berry wisely says, it nourishes community and this environment we’ve been gifted with. How blessed we are that God gives us the opportunity to tend gardens!