Finding Comfort In A Garden
Wednesday - October 11, 2006
In an age when so much of life is on-demand, patience can be a precious commodity - especially when it comes to developing a green thumb.
I’ve never been a very patient gardener, though I’ve always had something of a desire to grow things.
It started when I was in the fourth grade and my science teacher had us do an experiment to see if we could grow a string bean. We students carefully planted a seed in a Styrofoam cup full of dirt and watched for the seed to sprout. Weeks later, up popped a shoot that grew into a small plant.
My plant yielded one very small bean, if I remember correctly, but that was all the encouragement I needed to convince myself that I was meant to grow more edible things.
I continued with a strawberry plant I got at the local Star Market nursery. I got two berries off of that plant. They were only the size of a nickel and too sour to be tasty.
But I persevered. I decided that indoor plants were not producing the crop I needed, so I announced to my parents that I was going to start a garden in our backyard.
I dug up a plot of dirt on the side of the house that my father let me enclose with small bricks to have the appearance of a garden. I had big plans for that small patch of soil. I imagined I would plant vegetables of all sorts, harvest them and have enough to feed our family and our neighbors!
My father suggested I start small so a packet of carrot seeds was the first to go into the freshly fertilized ground. Methodically, I pushed the seeds equidistant from the other, hoping to give each unborn carrot the space it needed to reach its full carrot potential.
I watered and tended my garden daily, gently removing unwelcome weeds and searching for any hint of life. When bushy green carrot tops finally appeared above the soil, I was ecstatic!
“Now, you have to be patient,” my mother warned me. “The carrots aren’t ready to be pulled from the ground. They still have a lot of growing to do.”
“I know,” I said, explaining how I was fully aware of the carrot growing process at age 10.
But my child’s curiosity got the best of me. “What if I pull just one?” I thought to myself. “If the green top has sprouted, that must mean there is some orange carrot underneath. I’ll just look at one - just to see - and I’ll leave the rest to grow to their fullest!”
So I knelt down in front of my garden and tugged at one leafy top. It popped out with ease, leaving a scattering of dirt at my feet, but when I held it up there was no sign of orange.
“That’s strange,” I said out loud to myself. “Maybe this is a bad carrot. Maybe I should check another one.”
Well, I’m ashamed to say that I pulled out every single one of my carrots that day, looking for a sign of orange vegetable underneath. I never found any.
Frustrated with how long it took to grow things, I abandoned my ideas of gardening to concentrate on endeavors that required less earthly patience - like cooking food that came from the store.
Always in the back of my mind, however, was the idea that I would return to gardening one day.
My grandmother had the most beautiful garden before she moved to Hawaii from Detroit 10 years ago. I remember staring in awe at the expanse of tomatoes, green beans, cabbages and carrots that flourished under her care. I’ll never forget sitting down to a family meal with dishes created straight from her garden. It was with great patience and care that my grandmother tended her garden for more than 40 years.
Inspired by grandma’s green thumb, I thought I’d try my hand at gardening again. This time, I’m starting small with two sweet basil plants and a chili pepper plant. I gave each one a home in its own pot, in a place with lots of sunlight. I’ve been watering them thoroughly for days now, and my first positive sign came when I could see the chili pepper plant, once tilting to the side, now making an obvious reach for the sky.
I’m hopeful this time my gardening attempt will succeed. I’ve learned that in gardening, as in life, you have to give the things you’ve planted their own time to mature. Provide the soil, sun and water, as well as some humility in accommodating the things not within your control, and watch as your garden thrives.
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