Thursday, August 05, 2010

Gardening for Dummies

This past spring, after learning of a sale on vegetable plants at the supermarket, I swooped up six tomato plants, two zucchini plants, and two cucumber plants; my total cost was about $12.00. That afternoon they were in the ground and ready to produce results along with my established nectarine, pomegranate, lemon, and orange tree.

I am not an experienced gardener. I have never grown vegetables before, nor have attempted to. I didn't do any research, didn't make any plans- I winged it. I figured that it was natural to put the plants in the ground and have them take off.

It was later I learned that the vegetables should been planted in a spot with at least 8 hours of sun. My spot might give six, and that certainly is "might". I also learned I needed to buy tomato gates, which I promptly did the next week. I still was not too discouraged, although I wished I had that information in my back pocket ahead of time, as I knew there was a more preferable spot in my yard the plants could've thrived in.

As time has gone by, I have harvested two zucchinis, which has produced some satisfying batches of zucchini muffins. I've had to go through and do some major weeding and pruning over the past couple of months, as I have failed to tend my garden regularly. Watering has been sporadic, and my garden is usually either flooded or parched.

The cucumbers never produced anything. I think they may have been pulled out of the ground altogether by a certain zealous 4 year old in an attempt to gather flowers for a game sprung forth from his active imagination.

The tomatoes have come, but I have yet to pick most of them. With at least two of them, there is great debate as to whether the chewed up vegetables (or are they fruits?) still on the plant are being attacked by a gofer or birds. It'll probably turn out to be a cat.

Meanwhile, the nectarines are in abundance. I already think I may be too late in picking them. The kids managed to gather some, but most of them were squishy; I have no clue what that means as far as whether or not I've picked them too early or too late.

The pomegranates, lemons, and oranges still have a couple of months before we will need to gather those. Those were rather successful last year with only a small amount of effort on our part. The crops were more than abundant.

I have felt a longing for some time to learn more about gardening and to start one of my own. I know very little about gardening and like to joke to my friends that both my thumbs are black. Yet the pull towards gardening continues year after year, season after season. I find myself participating in discussions on backyard gardens and the harvesting of our region's agricultural gifts; although my participation can hardly be called such; I guess I'm more of a spectator to be more precise.

Recently I have discovered why God has put this pull in my life; my adventures in gardening have mirrored my spiritual progress in eerily accurate ways. Wanting so desperately to produce much fruit and many blossoms, I try each year some new plant, some new crop, a new tree. Each year I do little planning, hardly any research. I just take out my wallet in line at the nearest big-box nursery and whimsically attempt a new season's undertaking.

Each year there is initial enthusiasm, and very little result. Or, if there are results, they are usually harvested too late, or too early, or with much to be lacking. Those results come after months of undisciplined, haphazard care and fickle affection for my undertaking.

When guests come and view my efforts, I'm usually trying to distract them from my poor little area of overgrown weeds and uncared for plants, or I am showing off my latest frenzy of work after a moment of energetic inspiration, which is rife with ignorance and guess-work. Of course, I never admit that, but strive to install myself among the ranks of trowel-wielding experts on all things green. I know my loved ones see right through me, but are merciful enough to play along.

This mirrors my spiritual life the way a clear, calm lake mirrors the towering granite giant of a half-mountain imposing itself against the backdrop of a crisp summer sky (this inspired realization is brought to you by an easy summer trek to Mirror Lake in Yosemite National Park this past Father's Day). So many of my spiritual efforts start off with the same fervor, the same good intention. So many spiritual undertakings end with the same half-hearted, uneven fruitfulness (or fruitlessness?).

I know why God is calling me to gardening; he is calling me to learn more about how to take care of myself and my family. He is calling me to learn how to achieve holiness.

I truly believe that the natural world created for us can be the best teacher on how to care for the supernatural reality created within us. The processes, practices, and seasons of this stomping ground I call Earth is something that I not only take for granted, but rarely take into account at all. I know very little about the way God has provided for me and my livelihood via the resources of the ground and sky, but attach myself primarily to man-made, packaged provisions and comforts. I know that delving into the unknown art of tending another part of God's creation will help me grow in tending the spiritual garden of my soul.

While I am not proud to say that I will inevitable begin by checking out materials of the "Gardening for Dummies" variety from my local treasure trove, aka the library, I know this journey is not about starting off as an expert in need of fine-tuning. Rather, it's about starting off as nothing, allowing the hands of my Lord to cultivate me into a bountiful, fruitful plant. Maybe even a tree. Personally, I'd be happy to end up as a patch of alyssum at this point.


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