My wife and I spent many hours this spring preparing our garden beds for planting. I neglected them at the end of the last growing season. Hard work in late autumn can make for an easy spring; you pay with labor for neglect. But we weeded each of the raised beds, we fertilized where necessary, we laid down straw in the paths between beds. Then we transplanted the seedlings from inside and planted other seeds without giving them an indoor start. That was just before Memorial Day.
This morning we walked through the garden in much the same frame of mind that Adam and Eve must have had those first few mornings in Eden: The lush paradise surrounding us seemed to appear, as if from nothing. We were surrounded by miracles.
I know in some pedestrian ways what has taken place. The seeds have been moistened and drawn nutrients from the soil. The Sun has heated the Earth, and as leaves form, photosynthesis drives invisible engines of growth. Tomato plants are now two and three feet tall. We picked our first zucchini today. Our peas are fat and sassy. Pole beans have begun their sprint skyward. Broad leaves expand to fuel the growth of pumpkins. We're ready to eat beets, and will soon be planting more for later in the season and storage in the winter. Our carrots, too, are formed already; it is time for another planting. Several varieties of lettuce wave in the breeze. This is abundance and it seems more than the consequence of nature's way; it seems a miracle. So I will call it so, and walk humbly amid this bounty, thankful for what has thus far been a perfect season of rain, heat and Sun.
Those who grow no portion of what they eat deny themselves a healthy sense of awe. I stood this morning marveling at all the shades of purple. The stalks of our brussels sprouts are spectral. The deep purple of our beets is almost soothing, like chocolate on a cold day. And the flowering eggplants are a lover's kiss, promising more sensual delights if we will but attend and wait. A garden can make even a godless man give thanks to things unseen.
This year my wife and I are not traveling. We will stay at home during our summer vacation. We have work to do on the land. Land needs tending, and so do we.
We have an active chestnut tree that blooms just about now. We stood beneath it this morning and listened to the bees hum. The tree gives off a thick scent we first mistook years ago for something like distant chlorine. It took time for city noses to decipher country scents. The trees too are mircales now: apples, pears and peaches look different when they fall from a limb, rather than from a grocer's bag.
I spent a couple days away from home this week. I was homesick in a hurry. The day before we left, a tornado touched down a few towns from mine. I worry about the wind. In truth, my wife and I are tree huggers. Before we ever even saw the house in which we live, we saw a weeping beech, standing some seventy feet or so in height, and pouring down gorgeous leaves; a red maple stood by, almost as tall; the copper beech sends long limbs in every direction, each beckoning. The lane to our house is a tree-lined canopy. We saw the trees and knew we were home before we saw the house itself. But as kind as nature can be, I now worry that the winds will topple one of these giants. I hurried home to see the trees again, before another tornado touches down.
It is summer, and all that grows thrives and reminds me of all I know but do not really understand. I walk the garden and grounds and do not need to pretend what it would be like to live in paradise. I know it firsthand. Thank you, I say, to things unseen.