Monday, June 23, 2014

It's raining lightly

And that’s something the dogs don't seem to understand is an excellent excuse for postponing our morning walk.  They sit at the bottom of the stairs, gazing expectantly upward.  I can feel their eyes through my office door.

Rain, even a light rain, is a blessing for those of us who garden. I make the attempt, as I have every year for the past fifteen, since I have owned my own small patch of dirt, to connect with the earth.  In some places, I admit, it is control as well as connection, as I try to shape small areas with colors and scents that please me.

Mostly, I want a personal, visceral connection to what I eat. There's quite a bit of connection actually, considering how small the garden is, and how little of my food it actually supplies.  

But it's not about that now as much as it is about the fact, the realization, that most everything in that garden grew from seed I planted, tended, watered, and watched over.  I've yet to tire of watching a seedling push through, seeing a pea tendril or bean vine wrap itself just so around a branch I placed for just that purpose.

I have several pairs of garden gloves that watch me from the fence I placed them on to dry sometime in April.  I can't remember to put them on because I want the feel of the earth sucking the moisture from my hands.  I want the calluses, and the permanent stains under my nails from black dirt.  They are badges of honor in the world I strive to belong to.

The land I cultivate now is a fraction of what I started with when I first came to Virginia.  I had grand designs of a garden that would feed us through the year, of orchards with fruit and nut trees, wild food gathered and placed in gardens within easy reach.  I built 8 inches of rich black soil on top of land scraped to red clay by builders.  I planted blueberries, elderberries, apple and pear trees; scoped out wild raspberries and blackberries and patches were edible mushrooms grew.
young apple and pear trees

But it was too much.

It had always been too much for me physically, and although I knew that I kept pushing.

I've always done that, pushed beyond my limits.  What I'm starting to learn is that my limits are changing.  Not only starting to learn, but starting to accept that fact.

We live in town now, and the section of land I tried to bring under control is miniscule.  Most of the hard work was done by the owners before me, who left me vines and bushes, trees and shrubs fruiting and mature.
mature blueberry plants!

concord grape vine
asian pear tree

ripe gooseberries. I have always wanted to grow gooseberries.

 I'm two thirds steward and maybe a third builder.  My empire of abundance is managed by someone else now.  

But that’s cool, most of the time. Because I put the same love and care and intensity in to my tiny garden as I did my huge one. I’m realizing that it’s not about how much dirt I have, it’s that I have dirt I can plunge my hands into.  And I am starting to believe I really can get the same amount of enjoyment and peace from any garden I can connect with. I'm learning to be okay with what I have.

I’ve a small something else I’ve grown from seed, in a manner of speaking.  I’m referring, of course, to Coyote Summer.  I have an acquaintance from college who has a book that’s garnered national attention. 

 Sometimes I look at his posts on Facebook about already being booked for the whole next school year for personal visits,
I read the reviews from major newspapers, and I’m jealous.  And yet I don’t begrudge Chris his awards.  He works hard, harder than I ever could at publicity.  I couldn’t begin to attempt his schedule.  He has a big book, with a big publisher, and he’s earned it.

I have a small book with a small publisher and a small amount of energy.  This week I’m not talking in front of six classes of schoolchildren.  I’m talking to a small local book club.  And you know what?  I’m finally learning that’s what I can do.  And it’s enough.