“I’m up and down,” I told my Irish friend when she asked how I was doing.
She reached cross the pond just to check in, so I shared:
“The death toll here is beyond comprehension, and it colors everything I think about and do. We’re hardcore quarantined at home while my fellow citizens go back to life as usual, many ignoring sensible guidance from the government entities that still give a crap about the general welfare.”
I generally don’t share these kinds of sentiments aloud. I’m disciplining myself to focus on this day and what I can do be a voice of compassion and clarity. The rest — the overwhelming grief, the appalling lack of concern, the uncertainty about the future — is too big, too complex, too bleak to dwell on. I know I’m not alone in feeling this, but it has to come out sometime and with our safest people.
Then, I told her, “But I put in a garden this year.”
And perhaps because the world is more full than usual of things I can’t control, this little backyard plot has become a green and growing lifeline.
In late January, while it poured freezing rain outside, I pored over seed catalogs with visions of fresh produce. While the coronavirus began to spread, I raised sprouts indoors, gradually introducing them to the warm sunshine of spring. Then, with the power drill I bought myself years ago, I connected the fresh, pine boards, filling the beds with load after backbreaking wheelbarrow full of garden dirt.
Now, nearly every day, there are small miracles. A bean seed rises from the soil of its own will. The first blossoms peek out from under sheltering leaves. The peas curl their eager tendrils around the trellis I made with last winter’s branches, determined to climb.
It’s not a perfect effort. The padrón pepper seeds stubbornly refused to germinate. All but one potato rotted in the rain. When I lamented accidentally killing all my wiggler worms, a farming friend said, “Congratulations, now you’re a real farmer!” While I can’t change the failures, I can learn from them.
At first this garden was meant to merely reduce the number of trips to the grocery store, but it’s giving me so much more. It is slowing me down in the best possible ways. Not one seed will sprout at my urging, nor grow faster just because I check it six thousand times a day. No, this 6×10 plot is showing me how to take life as it comes, humbly, one day at a time.
And what a necessary lesson that is right now. Take life as it comes. For it does, no matter how I scheme or lament.
This afternoon, as I tucked the last squash seeds into their warm, damp bed, a pale yellow butterfly flittered around, stopping for a drink. Then I saw two bright red ladybugs racing across the pea shoots. And the surprise warmed me: this garden is more than a food source. I’ve created a sanctuary for many souls, including my own.
“A garden is an act of faith,” my Irish friend said.
We plant not in light, but in dark soil, with no assurance of success. We plant anyway–tomatoes or a kind word–hopeful for the fruit it might bear. Gardening, like life, is an act of faith. Today, may we pause to notice what calls to us, and act upon it with courage, even when the outcome is uncertain. Whether from a catalog or from our heart’s longing, most seeds will grow if tended with care and, in time, nourish more than we can imagine.