Monday, April 24, 2006

Gardening advice from a non-gardener...

This afternoon the children and I planted basil seeds in five pots out on our deck. The seeds are tiny, and there weren't many of them in the two envelopes we bought. But we have faith that within a few weeks, we will be plucking basil leaves to to make fresh pesto with and to add to our salads. Fortunately, we've never been disappointed when we've planted seeds in the past. Last year, we planted basil, peppermint, spearmint, and lemon balm. The only problem we had was one of neglect; we planted them and a couple of weeks later we left for Spain. For a month. When we returned, the seeds had sprouted into beautiful bunches of herbs, but because we hadn't picked any, they were a little overcrowded and a lot underused. It's strange; but when the plants are unpicked, they do less well than when they are picked.

Tiny little organic basil seeds packed lightly in organic potting soil. Now we wait.

Kinda reminds me of parenting and marriage and friendship and the journey of life in general. Tiny seeds of faith, hope, love, and joy are planted in the new soil of relationships. We talk. We tentatively rake the surface of our lives through shared conversation, emotion, and experience. We plant a few small seeds of yearning: do you want to be my friend? Do you want to try to grow something between us? Perhaps we can add the water of laughter at some point. A little fertilizer in the form of emails, phone calls, text messages, and the occasional piece of snail mail. The sunshine of shared cups of tea and fresh-baked cookies. One long-distance friend wrote of "internet expressos" that can be shared online and cherished. To sit and read a well-crafted email or blog, and digest words of tenderness and grace. To respond by the light of a candle with the smell of incense wafting past. Then we wait. We wait to see how our marriages, children, and friendships turn out. We wait for friends to respond. We wait.

Some people say that manure is a great fertilizer for plants, and I agree with that in theory. I simply cannot fathom willingly living with the smell of it around me all the time. Who wants to take on the horrible job of collecting it? Who wants to undertake the chore of spreading it? Yuck!

While none of us "want" to do either of those jobs, we all end up doing both of them. This morning I sat with some friends, and we talked openly and honestly about some of the challenges of marriage. Loneliness, fear, boredom, annoyance, disagreement, standing up for one's rights, giving in sometimes, giving up sometimes, reconciling, starting the whole roller-coaster ride again. The down times, the angry times, the disappointing times. These are the times that try our souls. The times when the manure is flying in every direction.

Miracle of miracles, when the manure settles and gets raked into the soil that was disturbed by the turmoil, often times something new, unexpected, and beautiful sprouts. From the depths of boredom, I emerge challenged to renew my desire to build passion back into the relationship. From days and nights of loneliness, I emerge with an internal fortitude forged in the solitude that emboldens me not only in my marriage and with my children, but also in my extended relationships with family and friends. Times of intense journaling about intense anger and disappointment serve to rid me of some of my malice so that in its place can bud a greater willingness to try again, to give over to the dailyness of life with a renewed sense of purpose and a less volatile and defensive spirit. But that good stuff usually comes only after there's been a storm of some kind, an episode of standing in front of the fan when the you-know-what is flying. I hate that part.

Saturday was Earth Day. I'm sure that all over the earth there were marches, parades, events, speeches, and demonstrations related to how much we are abusing our planet and how much we can do to ease the strain that we are willingly placing upon its resources. I have attended such events in the past and have always been challenged to work a little harder, to waste a little less, and to give thanks for this amazing planet that we get to enjoy.

On Saturday, I had occasion to go to Home Depot for a few things that Steve needed for the lawn, and later in the day I drove through the parking lot of Lowe's on my way someplace else. There were plants, trees, bags of fertilizer, grass seed, plant food, and seeds galore everywhere I looked. People who appeared much more knowledgeable than I about life in the great outdoors perused, selected, and purchased countless flats, bags, and crates of all sorts of garden and yard related goodies.

I marveled at the great faith they all have that something will grow, that their hard work will produce food, flowers, and vast lawns of great beauty. I'm sure many of them spent much of Saturday afternoon and evening and most of yesterday putting those plants and seeds into the ground. Bone meal, plant food, seed, lime, fertilizer, followed by hours of sprinklers and hoses spraying water, which I refer to as liquid gold, over the newly impregnated earth. Now they wait.

I wonder how many of the people planning and planting their gardens spend as much time fertilizing and watering their marriages with seeds of hope and grace. I wonder how many of them spend as much time sowing seeds of friendship and love in their children as they down on their lawns. For those without spouses or children, the time, energy, and dedication spent on growing themselves into mature men and women, on enriching their friendships, and on the causes and other commitments that they embrace - all of that will produce fruit that is both pleasing to the mind's eye and the soul's palate.

I wonder how many of us recognize that the manure of life, the pain, the job challenges, illness, and the fierce disagreements that are common in so many homes - I wonder how many of us think of that manure as fertilizer that can grow us deep and strong if we are willing to wait out the stench. Perhaps if we did, the divorce rate would drop a little. Teenagers would run away a little less often. Friends would bail out of relationships a little less frequently.

Remove the rocks from the soil. Stir it up and mix in new soil with fertilizer, bone meal, and even a handful of manure. Gently place a few tiny seeds in the soil. Cover them with another layer of soil, and water thoroughly. Then wait. . .

It's an easy and efficient system for planting and growing basil. It's also an efficient system for growing families, friendships, and lives that are characterized by growth, productivity, and beauty.

Notice, I didn't say it is an easy system,
but I know for sure that it works.
Manure and all.

1 comment:

Jill St John said...

Gail thinks I need to share some thoughts on manure..so I will because while i have no real expertise in manure, I can certainly recognize it when I see it, know it when I smell it and have probably shoveled enough of it in various ways useful and otherwise. So here goes, I am a gardener, not a great gardener but a passionate one for sure, and the only thing that can get me out of the kitchen is spring, and gardening centers and the thoughts of using flowers as dabs of paint for the canvas,(my yard). Manure like anything that provides a powerful visceral reaction, has its great attributes as well as its harmful ones. Manure when used in the garden has to be aged for it to be anything other than harmful. Once aged it is a delight to all things growing. Once the acid has been removed, it then seems to retain only the good things. I am no scientist so maybe its not acid, whatever it is if applied to plant young or old, it will burn, and in young plants, it could kill them. Now once time has had its way with manure's more caustic properties all that is left is the good stuff. I am hoping I let the acid age out of my manure this morning with my husband, maybe I should have given it another day to age, we shall see.