The Garden of Eatin’

Every morning at about a quarter to 10, we start the march to the Garden of Eatin’.

Out the back door and down the green slope of lawn to the tall garden gate we go. I am usually flustered. It is not a calming experience to find matching shoes and herd children and avoid ant hills that have risen like the dawn in the middle of walking paths. Don’t push your sister, watch out for that ant hill, help the baby down the step, no — not that way…

But as soon as the clank of the gate leads to the scent of cedar wood garden beds, I am as grounded as the roots within them.

This is not a professional or experienced garden, mind you. It is a beginner’s patch of watermelons and weeds, sweet potatoes and southern peas (already eaten by aphids) and pumpkins. But perhaps it is in my novice that I am better able to notice.

The pokey hairs on pumpkin vines and the voluptuous curves of a female flower. The way a baby watermelon still looks like a watermelon even at the size of a plum. I watch like a midwife at the growing girth — is she ready yet? Not quite.

My son watches on as he learns what happens when you plant a seed and nourish it. It’s the same general concept in all that is life-giving. A seed is planted, a suitable environment is made — and it grows.

“But why does it do that?”

That’s when the garden sprouts a deeper wisdom within the heart of my children. There is something much greater that helps these sorts of things along; a miracle-maker who works alongside us — molding every leaf of the vines and every limb of the babies that wind and bend around me.

The garden isn’t perfect, but oh, it’s becoming.

Though I envisioned well-weeded paths and tidy beds of Martha Stewart precision, these wild, wandering roots have me smitten. For as a mother complains of the squish in her belly that softly cradles her baby, the garden has no need to meet a worldly standard of impeccability. Its beauty is in its wild and intuitive sense to do exactly what it was made to do. To be itself.

“Why do the watermelon vines go all over the ground and the cowpeas just sort of grow straight up like that?”

Well, that’s how they’re made. That’s how they work best.

And I don’t know, maybe I’m just all mushy on the fact that I planted some seeds with my boy last Spring and they’ve gone and grown into something out of a pastoral poem, but I hope that I never stop being amazed.

I don’t think I will.

For I still lay with my fourth baby in the still of the night and am overcome with awe that something so great can start so small. And I still see that glimmer in the eye of grandparents and great grandparents and master gardeners, too.

We harvested our first watermelon and ate sweet, juicy, red slices of it last night around the dinner table. Tiny hands wrapped around the yellowy-green rind and bit into the slushy melon with dripping grins. We saved the hard black seeds to plant again next year.

There is great comfort in these everyday miracles, so common that they might be easily overlooked: the orange watercolor sky at dusk, the first summer melon, a newborn’s soft fist wrapped around my finger.

These are the gifts that come with a heartfelt note: you are a part of something greater.

These are the joys that never grow old, even when we do.

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