Monday, September 03, 2012


I've put my garden to sleep. Pulled out the last hopeless excuses for edible plants. Hoed up the weeds. Spread what was left of the compost. Covered the plot with weed-repressing black cloth. And tossed in the towel.

And trowel.

Not a bean to be harvested. Not a leaf of lettuce. Not a shred of spinach. The gods of gardens looked down on my patch of stunted seedlings and decided, "Why bother?"

And who would blame them?

What a summer! If I may be so delusional as to call it summer. I can count the sunshiny days on one hand. My seeds germinated, stuck a doubtful tendril into the cool, damp air and gave up the ghost. I understand; there have been days when I didn't want to get out of bed myself.

Global warming? Who knows? The prevailing wind is from the west, and if the sea is warmer and the air above is warmer, there's going to be more moisture coming our way. Cloud and rain. Fifty shades of grey.

But I need growing things. Need to witness the transformation from seed to plant. "How could something as yellow as a buttercup come up out of brown soil?" asks John Moriarty. "Where did the color and the perfection come from? And what else was down there?"

These sound like trite questions, questions a child might ask. But in fact they are huge questions, even in this day of DNA and molecular biology. They are the largest questions we can ask. The force that through the green fuse drives the flower drives my green age.

What is the force?

That's all I asked of my garden. How does a red tomato come up out of brown soil? I can get my beans and tomatoes at the grocery store, but those cellophane-wrapped packages are mute philosophers. If I want an answer, I have to participate in the question –- turning the soil, planting the seeds, pulling weeds, fighting slugs and rabbits.

A garden is an Academy . A school for philosophers. Brown knees and dirt under the fingernails are diplomas of sorts, certifications that one has asked the big question.