Day to day observations, trials and triumphs.
Wonder for the common and uncommon.
Stepping back to gain perspective.
The bane of my garden life are the uninvited plants, of course. I have been hand plucking for what feels like decades--centuries!--and nothing seems to improve the situation. I have carefully dug each and every plant out, "chopped" with a weeding tool recommended by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and guerrilla weeded, pulling at random in fly by manner, I have done everything short of poisoning or burning.
There are three things I carry with me from my youth that I know I will never do exactly right, because these are the three things I never got right under the tutelage of my parents. These are:
Washing the car (You are leaving streaks!!)
Ironing (Can't you do anything right?!), and
I hear my father's voice when I weed: "Get out all the root!!" He could be thoroughly ashamed to see me now, pulling and tearing and randomly plucking. But he couldn't know what I would be up against. We lived in a drier clime, not this jungle where things spring up overnight. Here, everything gets watered frequently from the sky and where there's water there's life--great green batches of it whether you want it or not. To get out every root could be my full time job, my calling, my life. Do I want that? No....
So I invested in a weeding tool from one of the myriad garden catalogs I receive (they've found me!--they've all found me!!) It feels like treachery, betrayal, even blasphemy to use it, since I'm not abiding by the family dictum to get out every last bit of root. But I love it. I weeded the beds this week in 1/3 the time. The veggie plants are happy, I'm happy--what's not to like?
I have turned my back on family dictum in the garden. Now if only I could stop ironing wrinkles into my clothes...
There is a bird outside my window in the mornings this spring that sounds like the screaming strings in the movie Psycho. It's the exact same pitch. Exact same cadence. Graciously, the bird vocalizes more intermittently than the strings in the movie sound track. And he usually stops before I get up to take my shower. That is a great mercy.
At other times, other seasons, there has been a bird that would cry out "Pretty, pretty, pretty," repeatedly. I chose to take this personally and accept the bird's estimation of me. What better way to wake up in the morning than to have someone insist that you are pretty, pretty, pretty, even with mussy hair and pillow-case creases along your cheeks.
No matter what they screech or sing at me, I am honored to welcome them into my garden, and I am blessed to provide what I can for them. The Garden Birds seem to expect their due, picking through seeds in the bird feeder like a shopper at a Black Friday sale, swinging hard on the suet holder until it crashes down and they can all pick at the crumbs on the bench, even swinging at our bedroom window to give it a good sharp knock when the feeder is empty. Yet they flee when I approach. Deep down I feel they must know I'm their provider, or at least deeply involved in their provision. They must see me working--no toiling--in the garden to create a green haven with abundant perches, a variety of snacks, and a fresh source of water. Nonetheless, they still don't trust me, and I fear my dream of living like Cinderella in a Disney film, with birds, squirrels, bunnies, et al garlanding me and singing harmony to my morning praises will never come to pass.
I have a choice to clench my hands on my hips and tap my foot and accuse these little ones of ingratitude, or I can keep giving, and take joy in their enjoyment. I choose the latter. I still tsk at their selfishness, as they chase each other off the feeders or out of the water, but laugh, too, at these displays of very human-like characteristics. I love that they can be themselves in my presence and just make themselves at home, and reflect the nature of life in the world.
But I still choose which bird I listen to in the morning, not taking seriously the one that screeches and momentarily puts me off my shower, but listening rather to the one that calls me pretty, and insists it is so. It sets a better tone for the day...
When I first met the plot of land destined to be this garden, it was a lawn area surrounded by Rose of Sharon bushes, two fig trees and two gardenias. It was plain and simple, and the temptation was to leave it that way, and not start another garden like the one we left behind. Mow and be done, I thought.
But some time that winter, there was a shift in the universe, and a vision formed for something more--a garden as a project I could sink my teeth into. Something I could form and develop over time and learn and grow alongside.
So that next garden season I carted in 7 yards of soil and created lasagna layers in the form of beds related to the N/S axis. I created the pathways, and an herb spiral. Since, I have developed the perennial area, worked on shade garden areas, and brought in fruit trees and edible perennials.
What I learned was not so related to specific plants or gardening techniques. While equipment for my creative outlet of choice(weaving) was tucked away until it had a place to settle(a studio), I found myself floundering and oppressed. On the one hand is was nice to have all the freedom I had longed for from plans and projects--I thought that could be so delightful. But in reality I was depressed. Bepaw(Mr. L) was busy with his construction project, designing, managing, coordinating, building. I was bereft of a goal or creative outlet.
It has only been in retrospect that I have made the connection between the garden as creative outlet and my mental health. It wasn't so much the work, or the being outside, but the envisioning and working toward a desired outcome. It very clearly illustrated the deep human need for an expression of creativity.
I believe our innate creativity is a reflection--evidence if you will--of the character of our Creator. How can this thing dwell in us so deeply, and so persistently, without having a basis in some source? How can we spring fully bloomed with a personality and not have some recollection of the founding Person?
This year, the fourth year of development, the garden is beginning to really take form. There has been discouragement, and there have been moments I've thought I should bring back the sod. But in spite of post-season burn out, each winter I've planned and plotted again to bring more form and function to the area. The work is starting to pay off. And I am learning what works and what doesn't. But mostly I'm learning about my need to express my Creator's character, not just in the hunger for creative outlet, but in the patience and wisdom to know that true change and growth takes time.
Rough weeding is done and the plants are in. I am working my way back over all the ground to detail weed, and it occurred to me last night that, before this spring is over, I will have touched every square inch of this garden with my bare hands. I will have crawled along behind the Roses of Sharon, stretched under the peach and cherry trees, and bent low along the fence line to pluck the unwanted greenery stem by stem. I will have lifted the feathery stalks of the carrots, followed weedy stems to their base among the strawberry plants, and pinched or scraped the thousands of wort-like weeds off the ground under the persimmon tree.
It seems a form of consecration. I've always thought I wanted to have a relationship with land--to have a piece of turf that I knew well enough that I could recognize every inhabitant, including the ones that pass through seasonally. In order to do this, I have to know the soil, the worms, the insects, the plants, the birds. Intimate weeding has brought me closer to this place. And shown me the extent of involvement needed for the garden to flourish.
Spurgeon said, "Let us always plow to the very end of the field, and serve our day and generation to the extreme limits of our sphere."
Plowing to the end of the field involves both breadth and depth. The intimate knowledge and whole-hearted involvement in every square inch of our sphere is the best we can offer. We can do no more, but must determine to not do any less.
A teacher recently challenged me as to where the concept of a "calling" is in the scriptures.
"Make your calling...sure," is about salvation.
"The gifts and the calling of God are without repentance," is specifically about the Jewish people.
There are principles, yes, but the idea that we have one life-long calling or purpose is difficult to find. The sphere(of influence) Spurgeon references can change for us as we travel through the stages of life. The important thing is to commit to what is before you, and plow. And plow.
Just as I see myself consecrating the garden with the touch of my hands, the field I'm in needs the same consecration...friends, family, fellowship, To the utter ends of the field.