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Renewal and Reflection

June 21, 2014

Container gardening - my veggies.

Modest beginnings: green beans (foreground) and zucchini (background).

It’s the first day, officially, of summer – and boy has it made its presence known. Near-blistering heat tempered with a lot of breezes. I melt above 78 degrees F, but I need some sun on my skin. Mind you, I’m not a beach bunny, nor am I attempting to work up to a world-class tan. I want the healthy part of that equation: the Vitamin D stuff for my bones, the gentle transition of my skin tone from pale to faintly golden that comes from being outdoors doing something, and the enormous stress relief that comes from focusing on doing something essential and truly meaningful. The bad stuff that is part and parcel of contrived social existence takes a back seat when you concentrate on the heart of Life itself.

A lifetime ago, my parents used to put in a small backyard garden for us kids to raise veggies in. I never thought of it as work. All the hours spent weeding and nurturing the plot reinforced my inherent relationship with the physical world. The earth crumbled between my pudgy toes and fingers. I marveled as green life sprouted from hard featureless seeds buried a week or more before in the barren soil. Pulling carrots and radishes free of the earth, picking green beans and ears of corn – everything I had grown and harvested gave me a sense of accomplishment quite unlike any other chore I did inside.

By the time I was in junior high and high school, I no longer had space in my schedule for gardening. Then I was off to college, which experience was shortly followed by marriage. I had one small garden for one season, a few years into my marriage. The missing of working outside in the soil caught up with me, and I was determined to grow food of some kind. I planted broccoli, tomatoes and green beans. It was not as much fun as when I was a child. I was more aware of the time involvement, the relentless battle with the elements, insects and other small critters. It would be a long time before I went to that much trouble again.

Twenty years later, I put in flower beds around the home we eventually built. They were a joy to design and fill with various annuals and perennials, but they soon became “work.” As I aged, my body was less willing to bend over for hours, weeding, so I turned to spraying chemical poisons. This ate at my soul, so I gradually did away with those things and returned to old-fashioned physical removal. It was a good plan until my sciatic nerve developed some issues, cutting my gardening time down to almost nil. The weeds and insects seamlessly filled in the vacant moments, overpowering and conquering everything I had labored to create.

This year I’m much stronger, but still have little spare time. Despite that, I’m attacking the flower beds, reclaiming my turf bit by bit. I’m also trying out some container gardening with a few veggies: one pot each of zucchini, green beans, and carrots (the little kind). Although I planted late, the seeds have sprouted and are growing larger and stronger every day. I can move the pots around with the sun, shield them from too much wind and rain, and defend more readily against pests. It’s a good feeling. Like the seeds in the pots, part of me has been regenerated. There is a subtle feeling of completeness to life again. I have returned to my own roots, drawing life-energy at the touch of soil, sun, water, and growth.

Today, after limbering up with a number of standard-end-of-week inside chores to ease my conscience, I eased out the patio door into the backyard. It wasn’t the blast furnace we’d been experiencing over the past week, thank God. With the intermittent breeze, it was more a natural warmth settling around me. I surveyed my little outdoor kingdom and saw there was much to be done. After an hour or so, I pulled enough weeds to make my fingers ache, revealing the red river stones lining each flower bed. I freed the Black-Eyed Susans and Hostas from the smothering encroach of clover and assorted grassy weeds, making room to finally put out the little metal airplane garden stakes I bought last fall.

Metal airplane garden stakes.

Flight of Three whimsical garden stakes where weeds once reigned.

I do have one flower bed that remains untouched, however. It is the one right below the nest of baby robins that rests in the crook of the downspout from the rain gutter. Major reconstruction on that bed can wait until the babies have left the nest. I’m too busy watching them grow, and sharing in their wonder at the world into which they have been born.

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