Tuesday, June 10, 2008
A week or so ago, Jay and I decided to do some planting. My grampa had always been a gardener and I'd always wished I was one. Years ago, when daboyz were small, I attempted a container garden. I bought about three big planters and a bag full of seeds. Tomatoes, peppers, cukes. I spent the day planting with my little boys feeling that this is the stuff their childhoods should be made of. The Mr. wanted nothing to do with it and stayed inside the air conditioned house having worked in a hot factory all day long while I planted my seeds. I was excited to have my guys watch the tender sprouts become strong vines and ultimately to pick their harvest like I'd done with my grandparents; turning over the tomatoes this way and that, brushing the dirt off the sun-warmed cucumbers. This was my attempt at redeeming their childhoods which I felt was a pale comparison to the richness of my own.
We had a dog then named Jazz. Jazz just passed away about a year ago and if you read along as we said good bye to her you know we loved her. But Jazz was a bad dog sometimes. She was disrespectful, if you believe a dog can be such a thing. That evening after I planted my container garden and took daboyz inside for their bath, Jazz went outside and dumped over and dug through every last planter. She spread the dirt everywhere and my seeds along with it. Not to mention the few flowers I had planted in the process. All destroyed and spread all over the yard. When I went outside and saw what she'd done, I was devastated. I cried and cried not that we wouldn't have fresh vegetables that that, once again, I believed my kids had lost another one of the gifts I wanted to pass on to them. Somehow I was ashamed of what Jazz had done. I cleaned up the mess and threw those pots into the basement never to attempt another container garden.
Last week Jay and I bought two packets of seeds; sunflowers and pumpkins. We went for the sunflowers that promised to be seven feet tall and the pumpkins that will grow to seventy pounds (competition worthy!) We planted the sunflowers along our fence line by just yanking up some handfuls of grass and smashing the seeds down into the dirt. We proceeded to the circle of sandy clay around a utility pole and repeated the process with the sunflower seeds. We gave them all a good dose of water with Miracle Grow mixed in and I gave them another shot of water a few times throughout the week. I looked at the scars in the earth where we'd put the seeds. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
My parents bought me a Topsy Turvy tomato planter and today the Mr. and I planted a few tomato plants in it. The extra plants from the flat I planted in an old tin bucket I found in the garage. We decided to hang the Topsy Turvy by the utility pole. While the Mr. was putting the thing together, I went over to check out where I wanted my Topsy Turvy hung.
And there, in the hard sandy clay, were pumpkin sprouts. Pretty nice sized hearty looking vines with fat green leaves. I walked over to the fence line. Nothing. Wait, maybe...I bent down and shoved aside the leaves that the storm had blown into the fence line. Sure enough, tiny tender sunflower stems with delicate leaves were hiding under the leaves blown by last night's wind against the fence.
I called Jay out and we walked around the utility pole with its sandy hard clay and up and down the fence line pushing away storm debris. We agreed that we never really believed those seeds sown so haphazardly would push their way up through that unprepared soil. We were sure the birds had dug up the seeds in the last several days. We planted those seeds with a lot less hope than I planted that container garden all those years ago. We planted them for the fun of it.
The Mr. hung my Topsy Turvy tomato planter in what is now my sandy hard clay pumpkin patch. I put my tin pail with the leftover tomato plants there too. I watered the baby sunflower sprouts and the competition worthy pumpkin vines.
Would you laugh at me if I told you I felt redeemed? That I sat back after all was said and done and cried with happiness? That I called my mom to tell her about the seeds sprouting?
I don't know why that bad Jazz destroyed my container garden. I don't know how those seeds managed to survive the birds and the sandy hard clay and the haphazard planting. I don't know what harvest there will be when summer all too quickly starts to turn its face away.
This time I don't have dreams of plucking fat red tomatoes from our vines or thick fuzzy vines with impossible orange pumpkin laying heavy on the ground. I haven't thought far enough ahead to worry about how tall the sunflowers might grow. I am not worrying about what might happen to my efforts and I won't cry at my failure if this is the beginning and end of my garden.
This time I enjoying inhaling the already tomato-y smell of the plants and I let the warmth of the fertilized soil fall over my bare feet. I filled my big watering can and let the cold water from the hose slosh over my bare dirty legs as I lugged it to my utility pole garden and enjoyed cool of the water as it made dirty rivulets down my legs. And this time, the moments are enough. My twenty year old planting silly childish fairy tale seeds with me...giant pumpkins and towering sunflowers. Ridiculous tomato plants hanging upside down or plopped without ceremony into a tin bucket. Cool water from a hose on warm dirty feet. Humidity drifting away on a breeze so cool you could almost feel its movement like the heat from an oven against your face.
I know now, that in the hardest clay, life can reach in and take hold. I know that even with neglect and haphazard care, tender roots can grasp the earth sending the tiniest leaves to whisper, "I'm here!"
I know that with effort and failure life beats within me. And that the ground that should not yield a harvest can be redeemed.
I know that tears of disappointment still water dry soil.
And joy will always grow. Push aside the debris from the storm and you might find evidence of new life.
1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.