By G. E. Shuman
Every spring, regardless of my many memories of past personal failure in trying to raise vegetables, I always try again. Something about that fact reminds me of the definition of insanity. Oh well. Over the years I have tried growing tomatoes in pots and plots, beans in rows and hills, and other vegetables every which way you can think of. I have also attempted to grow hanging baskets of strawberries, and even those upside-down things that make it simple to produce ‘hundreds of berries’. Okay, sure they do. I am always able to produce some produce at our home, but not enough to really be worth doing so, at least not by my methods, so far.
This year, I’m tempted to not go through the effort and expense of raising anything at all, and just visit our local farm stands for fresh veggies. I have not totally decided to do that, as I am also tempted to try once more. (Like I said, the definition of insanity.)
Yesterday that temptation did draw me to the small rectangular spot beside our house, where most of my yearly gardening attempts have been made. As I stood there looking at the space, I was reminded, somewhat, of why I probably keep trying to be a successful gardener. It is that, although I definitely have no green thumb, I do like to participate in the idea of life.
To me, the green of spring and summer simply define that idea of life. Spring means a new beginning for all things living, after one more hard Vermont winter. It is a new chance to experience growth, and to begin what is hoped will be a bountiful harvest in the fall.
As I stood there, I recalled some of those other springs when I have attempted to grow things; I remembered that year that I mixed up the seeds, which was embarrassing, and the other when my little sticks with paper reminders of what was in each row blew away. (I felt exceptionally stupid that time.) I certainly have a penchant for mixing things up, in my little garden, and perhaps in life in general, I thought.
This brought me to remember my feeble attempts at being the best husband, dad, and granddad in the world, and my many failures in those things, also. Seeds and wives and children and grandchildren don’t always become what you think they will be, no matter how hard you try to provide the best setting and circumstances possible for them to grow. Not that I am at all disappointed in my family members, and not that they are supposed to be what I think they will be. They are all beautifully thriving, and my family continues growing, despite my best efforts at what just might be unintentional misdirection.
One year I very exuberantly planted string beans in my garden, and way too many in each hill. They grew into big plants, but produced few beans. In that experience, I learned that I do not always know the best way to do something, and that, often, less is more. Over the years I have probably also pushed my kids too much, I thought, expecting great results, and have been taught by them and by God that I didn’t know what areas their potential was in at all, or what things would be best for them to learn.
Also, things do accidentally grow in my garden, that I never planted, like weeds, but also wild roses. Weeds don’t seem to need encouragement to thrive. Children do. In life, occasionally, careless words of mine may have produced unintended resentment or disappointment, while some things my offspring, and their offspring have seen in their parents, hopefully, have encouraged them to be the fine, caring people that they have all become. Wild roses are beautiful, and bloom on their own, without my help, I then thought.
Soon after, in my visit to my little plot, it came to me that some of the fun of a garden is just in the pleasure of watching and helping it grow. New life, when it is first seen, excites and gives satisfaction. Nurturing that young growth to maturity is very rewarding. So it is, only much more so, with a family.
My small garden, and my big family, always provide adventures for me. After all these years, I still feel like a novice planter, and father, and am never exactly sure what I’m going to get in my little earthen pots and plots, or in what direction my family will grow.
There is an old Spanish proverb: “More grows in the garden than the gardener knows he has planted.”