Get this!

This afternoon Tre and Max were across the street, visiting Craig James, Mom was off running an errand, and Dad had taken Raphael to Home Depot (a joyous destination if you are my father or any of the small boys who adore him). I took advantage of the quiet by ignoring the many things I should have been doing and slipping out to the garden.

Today was hot – not just lovely spring warm, but hot. I’d spent too long at the park during lunch, enjoying the heat on my bare arms, and now the sun stung my reddened skin. The plants in the garden were similarly stunned by all that sun, so I turned on the hose and sluiced cool water around them. I slipped off my shoes and wandered, observing.

Lettuce plants, as wide across as my hand, lost their dim and dusty look as the water flowed over and past them. Tiny needles of carrot seedlings poked through ragged cracks in the parched dirt. Garlic plants waved limply in the breeze. I squatted down and meditatively plucked fuzzy leaved weeds, gently tugging their roots free and flinging them aside.

I can be described as a sloppy gardener. I don’t properly gather and destroy weeds, preferring to leave them to decompose on the edges, out of the way. I never seem to intercept flowering plants soon enough, and am forever finding offspring of last year’s produce growing randomly around the garden. Just today I spied several tender spinach plants huddled underneath the garlic. It never ceases to amaze me, somehow, that the whole process worked – again. A plant grew, produced a flower, it was fertilized, and produced seeds that contained the plans for a whole new plant. And now, here they are, the babies, growing under their own impetus and wisdom.

Sometimes I wonder if other gardeners come to gardening as bewildered as I. When I was 16 I was an exchange student to

New Zealand

. While I was there I took a job (illegally, I might add, since I was on a student visa) at a flower farm. I worked weekends, and one Saturday I went and planted row upon row of stiff little statice plants. I went back a few weeks later to find, much to my amazement, taller stiff statice plants. In time they sprouted buds, then burst open into papery purple, pink, yellow, or white flowers. I was always surprised by their progress, and even wondered if the other workers had dug up my tiny seedlings each week to replace them with larger plants.

“And where do you think they’d get the bigger plants?” one of my fellow workers asked, amused. I didn’t know. It seemed too fabulous, the natural progress of a growing plant.

I’m still amazed by it, and each time I plant something new I wonder and worry. The first time I planted carrots I fretted over the seeds. They look like tiny wood shavings, and I couldn’t imagine how those slivers could take hold in the ground, so I covered them with the gauzy fabric of an old cloth diaper. I misted them twice a day and peeked under the fabric seventeen times a day. In time, they sprouted, and eventually they produced carrots. Over the years I weaned myself off my obsessive care of carrot seeds. Now I draw a line in the dirt with my finger, sift tiny carrot seeds into it, and cover them up. I water every few days, with a gentle stream right from the hose, and, just as quickly as they did under their diaper cover, they sprout. Just as carrots have since they were first created. Seeds + dirt + water + time = carrots.

And I’m still amazed.

This year I planted potatoes for the first time. I don’t know why, but I’m enchanted by the idea of growing potatoes. Two weeks ago I dug the furrows, reread the directions (ooooh, three FEET apart, not three INCHES), and planted two rows of potatoes. Ever since then I’ve been fretting over the potatoes. I peer at the dirt, searching for signs of life. Shouldn’t they be growing by now? Surely by now?

Today I stood in the garden, my arms wrapped around my waist, to keep my tender skin within the shadow cast by my body, warily eying a wasp as it flew by, and I noticed the potatoes. There, and there. A dusty knob of leaves, pushing aside the dirt like a fist thrust up through the ground. I ran a finger over each gnarled baby plant, and grinned. Look at that, a potato plant. I betcha in the fall, when I dig up what’s underneath, there will be potatoes.

And I’ll still be amazed.

It’s not just the garden, you know. Over and over again, as life happens and grows and changes, I’m surprised that it works. I remember being newly pregnant with Tre, weeping quietly in a restaurant, trying to imagine how this could possibly WORK. How could I be a mother? What if I forgot to feed the baby? What if I left him somewhere? I called my mom and cried, “What if I screw up?” And she laughed and replied not unkindly, “Oh…you will.”

And I did, and life went forward and it worked anyhow.

Life. It keeps happening. And sometimes I wobble and think, good Lord, how will THIS work? This can’t possibly work.

And it does.

And I’m amazed.



I really want to garden, but it seems so intimidating. They couldn't possibly just grow, could they? Naw, to simple.


I'm not really organised enough to garden, but one year I grew potatoes to help break up some really clay-ey soil and I remember being similarly amazed that they grew, and that when I dug them up there were real actual potatoes there, and boy didn't they taste good :)


loved yor plant analogy. ahhh life.


I love it when you wax poetic. Delicious descriptions, dear writer. You have such a beautiful way with words, just like you do with your garden...and your children. Some people are simply born to nurture. Isn't it lucky for us all that you're one of them?

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