Garden Notes: Seed Memories

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Sometimes I wonder what kind of memories we are creating for our children. When they look back on the cool landscape of their growing years, what will the aperture of their minds bring forth? Already I see how they have forgotten the many ways we have loved them. Already they forget the long hours spent poring over stories together, the tucking in and the answering heart-questions awakened by the night. What will they remember? The question fills me with dread and longing.

This morning Jeffrey lay on the couch beside me as I picked through my morning reading. I read Psalm 7 aloud to him, aware of a question in his eyes. When I was finished, he asked about gay marriage, about the Bible, about what I thought.

When he left me, I went out to take pictures of the purple-blossomed eggplant, the new peppers budding, the shy white flowers of the pole beans. When we returned from the ocean two weeks ago, I had to move all of my pepper plants to the other raised bed because the tomatoes had grown so much they were buried alive. I was worried the transplant would disrupt their growth cycle but I have given them such tender care. And we’ve had so much rain they have been happy to have more room to spread their leaves and blossom.

I pinched off a few spotted leaves on my tomato plants and thought about seed memories. Will they remember love? Or will the struggle to burst through the walls of that hard seed shell erase the memory of the soft soilbed?

I wonder. I wonder. But for now, I will continue to water, to prune, to tend my small garden with care.

 

Garden Notes: Seed Changeling

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Yesterday, one of the goats slipped through the fence and when we returned from graduation practice late morning, she was standing in our back yard—perilously close to my garden. I called our neighbor, the goat-man, but he wasn’t picking up, so all I could do was stand guard with a little poker stick and prod at her every time she took a bite of my greens. Each time I did so, I felt so bad that I gently scratched her course-haired nose immediately after. My discipline had little effect. She looked up at me with those vertical pupils—something like adoration on her sweet, kale-stealing face.

We still had a lot of preparation to do for the graduation ceremony that evening. My mom was driving down and I needed to put clean sheets on her bed. Teddy’s slacks still needed ironing, and his gift wasn’t wrapped, not to mention he needed to practice his speech. Time was slipping through my fingers and here I was, goat-sitting.

I walked along the fence line to see if I could find the escape spot. Maybe I could gently urge her back through to the other side. I ran inside and plucked an apple from our fruit bowl. She followed the apple and me along the fence, softly bleating. But I could find no open door through which to coax her. It looked like she had somehow squeezed underneath the already bowed out metal fence. I tried to lift the skeletal remains up and tempt her back under with the apple, but her kindred on the other side caught wind of my fruity treat and came running in a cloud of witnesses. I was soon in danger of having a herd of goats in my yard.

I put the graduate in charge of the poker-stick and drove up to my neighbor’s house to see if anyone could come and retrieve this errant goat. There I learned the goat-man was on his way and when I returned upon the scene he was making the last strides through the meadow to assess the situation. Meanwhile, Miss Goat kept stealing little bites of kale as Teddy ineffectively poked and reprimanded.

The goat-man walked the fence adjacent to our yard and was as mystified as we as to how she had slipped through. He was apologetic, but wondered if I could just lift her up and over to him, then he would inspect the fence for the weak places.

Pick up a goat?

Hilarity ensued. Miss Goat somehow knew we were going to put an end to her adventure and managed to deftly elude us from all sides. At one point, I was possessed with a fit of giggles so pervasive I thought I was going to have to give it up. Finally, we had her cornered by the garden and when she took a bite of kale, I pounced.

Pygmy goats are small but compact and it felt like I was picking up a small Volkswagen. But I handed her off to the goat-man without incident. She joined her other goat friends gladly and soon I was left standing alone, surveying the remains of my kale.

She hadn’t done too much damage, and the greens are nearly past prime anyway. Already the summer squash seeds I had pressed down in between the leafy greens were poking up through the dark soil. I needed to harvest the rest of the lettuce and spinach, pull up all the greens and either use them or feed them to the goats. It is time for the garden’s second wave of crops. The tomatoes and peppers are looking good. My bean plants are nearly four inches tall and looking for more room to vine up and out. I studied the beginning of their twinings and noticed how the remnant of the seeds still clung to the sides of their stems. I gently touched the soft, yellow half moons of the broken pods in wonder.

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How do these growing things begin as one thing and change into something entirely different? Beautiful and fragile all at once?

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I knew I needed to harvest the kale very soon. But the sheets still needed changing and the slacks pressing. And my boy was waiting in the house, filled with anticipation for the evening.

I took a last look at the goat-nibbled greens and headed back inside.

Garden Notes: The Truth that Carries

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This is what the world wants from our rhetoric, what the man of God longs for in a shepherd—someone daring enough to be different, humble enough to make mistakes, wild enough to be burned in the fire of love, real enough to make others see how phony we are.~Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

Everywhere—dropping from the dew-soaked sky, clinging to every high stalk of yarrow in the meadow, behind the closed doors of walnut-stained cupboards, between cottony sheets on my bed—everywhere, there is truth. It stares me loud in the face and still I choose to believe in a world of arbitrary rules and a way of life I have concocted on my own—stubbornly convinced of the importance of too many things that. just. aren’t.

In the early morning hours, my feet wet with fallen starlight, I peer through yew branches to find the finch’s nest. She has roosted high this year, on a scaffold of limbs to cradle and protect. I will need the ladder to see and count her young, but I can hear their plaintive cries for breakfast. The crows have been nosing around for days.

Truth.

All around me the world breathes, inhales and exhales life I can see and touch, and death crouches in the shadows, waiting to pounce. In early spring, I noticed that our plum tree did not bloom. Our beautiful umbrella-like tree that usually announces the arrival of the season heavy-laden with pink, pearly blossoms unfolding … The tree we planted when Jeffrey was born—little pearl, the one who rains color into our days. The tree is dead. The winter must have been too harsh for it—I noticed a neighbor cutting down his plum the other day.

This morning, I picked the first tender shoots of greens from my garden and made a salad for lunch. A simple joy—seeing this thing through from the garden to the table. With each forkful I felt truth settle into my gut.

The truth is, I’ve been too concerned about what other people are doing. Measuring myself up against a plumb line that was not created for me. Lost in worries about slow book sales, and whatiswrongwithmes, and feeling the ache of inadequacy.

The truth is, I know my worth is not found in these things but the truth of this is easy to lose sight of when you run in the wake of the fast kids.

It takes courage to step out of that race, to take a different path and face the writer’s rhetoric with truth.

Dare to be different.

Be humble enough to make mistakes.

Be wild enough to risk the burn of love.

Be real.

I’m tired of following rules that leave me empty and aching for something real. Truth goes by many names. I will try to choose wisely. Is the truth I carry able to carry me?

I think about these things as I water my garden, as I walk Bonnie around the yard, as I cut irises for the table.

Then I see it, blatant in the afternoon sun. Out of the base of the dead plum tree. A single shoot of life.

Playdates with God: Promise

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In the long winter my body has forgotten. It has forgotten how to bend and stoop and open to the earth. It remembers only how to fold in upon itself, to become the sleeping seed, to curl up against the cold. But as the green shoots stir and reach up out of their slumber, the dust within me begins to awaken.

All day I pull weeds from the beds in my back yard where beauty is beginning to open her eyes. My ancient bones protest against this reunion, but—like a sister—I press on, letting her awaken gently, making room for the stretch and yawn. I take the flat-edged shovel and make the boundaries sharper, stir the soil on the brim of the beds, let my hands dig deep to break up clods of unyielding earth. I sift it all through my sieve-fingers.

I am not alone. There are many visitors. A hairy woodpecker raps on the trunk of the towering walnut tree. The robin’s song gives cheerful company. Earthworms wriggle and the wind lifts the meadow grasses. A tiny titmouse perches above me and admonishes me for how large and clumsy I am. I talk to him, try making the “pish”-ing sound to signal my good nature. He cocks his head to one side, curious. The sun falls soft over us and the smell of earth is a heady perfume and I am happy.

My body begins to remember.

There is still much work to do and I am reacquainted with ibuprofen but this is the song of spring. We have been preoccupied with a big decision and sleep gives way to worry but fresh air does much to treat this malady. At night I dream about church bells and robinsong and I awaken with the scent of earth in my nostrils and that feeling of excitement that something good will come soon.

The waking earth holds in her womb a promise. The slow awakening helps me remember.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us. **UPDATE: Friends, I had to close the linky due to a large number of inappropriate linkups. Please accept my sincere apologies if any of you, dear readers, inadvertently visited one of these inappropriate links. I’m going to have to think about what to do for our future playdates posts. In the meantime, please leave your link in the comments so our community may continue to visit. Again, I’m so, so sorry!

 

Laura Boggess

Garden Notes: Dream of the Waiting Soil

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I spend the mornings in the flowers—cutting back, pulling up, raking out. I’m late this year—the frost already thick on the grass when the sun drops the diamonds of first light. My mother-in-law told me to wait; let the birds glean what they will, she said. And they did. The coneflower is dry as straw, the Black-eyed Susans blink. All the color is gone from the garden. The brittle browns and faded rusts shush me as they rub together in the wind.

I rake leaf remains out from around tubers—their subtle reds and golds like scattered gems. The thick bands of iris greens break easily with fingers. I smooth around their fibrous heads, let them breathe. Already the leaves have started to make rich compost–the soil underneath fragrant and dark. I breathe deep its heady scent, close my eyes and dig fingers in the cool moist.

This afternoon the robins are in a frenzy over my newly cleared soil.

I’m sharing over at my friend Elizabeth’s today. I have the most hospitable friends.  I hope you’ll join us over there.