Saturday, November 22, 2008

Amazing Garden




This morning I went down to the garden to see what was growing there. No... the sunflowers did not come up. No ...the herb recao volunteers have not returned. Hum...I ponder...I look...I pull lots of weeds. I think one day my garden will really be that-a garden, that is- but lately, I approach it sporadically and with acceptance. The beef-eater tomatoes are in trouble- one plant down and one to go...maybe I shouldn't have overlooked the name? I move the remaining one to another place hoping that it will get more sun and more reason to fight-because fight it must. The rosemary bush is thriving; recently, I cut off the top 10 inches and made an arrangement in the kitchen-all week I wanted to eat Italian food! The gardenia bush is green and gaining girth; the ginger stalks are pushing through its gaps racing for sun. The avocado tree has broken through its pot and asserts itself in the temporary location. There is a light green waxy succulent plant that I found discarded and I took it home; it has revived in the base of a hollowed out ceiba tree trunk. There are some malanga root plants at the foot of the garden, I didn't plant them and they remind me of intruders. I tell myself that it's not their fault that Sr. Casto, the property owner, used them as a tool to prevent further encroachment into his land. I guess he wanted to tell me/show me that this land was his land...and not my land. I hear, "This land is your land, this land is my land, from California to the New York island...from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters...this land was made for you and me." I don't think the inclusive spirit of this song expresses quite the right tone. Recently, I started all of the seeds I had left over from the last couple of years. Of the seedlings, only the tomatoes and peppers have survived. Why? Here is my confession: A beautiful butter yellow pregnant cat was terrified to death by my nine dogs. I ran out at 2am to scoop her up in my arms and place her in the makeshift greenhouse-formerly known as the pig house-where she laid down for her final rest. Okay, I did not have the nerve to go back there again once I discovered her death so for two weeks my plant seedlings went without water...as I waited for the cat to decompose. After my courage returned, I went to the aversive scene and did my best to revive the plants with poor result. Now, my friend Mark has given me his extra seeds and I warily read the packages: red noodle beans (hand written), Armenian Yard Long cucumber, Evergreen Bunching Onion, Stringless Blue Lake Pole Beans, Chocolate Cherry Tomatoes, asparagus (ASO12 UC 157 F2) Hybrid, and a summer squash, Tromboncino, a novelty zucchini. They come from these seed companies: Ferry-Morse, Livingston Seed Co., Lilly Miller, Johnny's Selected Seeds and the Territorial Seed Company. I'm communicating these details so that you might be able to feel what I do when he asks me, "Did you plant the seeds, yet?" I will. It's just that I have to make peace with the ones that didn't make it. I have to accept the responsibility of a new attempt, buy more dirt, and communicate with the garden memory ghost! I know I will get the hang of gardening in the tropics; just as I once learned to garden in southern California... and Michigan. It's true that every place has its temperament which has little to do with weather; I imagine it takes a while for the land to welcome a stranger's hand. The traditional Cherokee have a ritual of asking the land to welcome the seeds while minimally disturbing the soil...I think I'll try that. I know that one day the earth will respond to me-via the plants- the day I finally give la tierra what it needs. Meanwhile, I ruminate, I ponder and now, I pontificate on my seemingly futile gardening efforts.

9 comments:

  1. When you move a lot in life there is so much adjustment to make; especially, if you tend to be domestic-or your raising children. May the garden blessing fairies vist the plants and earth you tend and bring you an abundant harvest; a show of color; and all the earth-love you can absorb.

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  2. Hi dears, my name came out wrong; it's Adi Shakti not Shakto. I was putting on my glasses but...I still hit the wrong key. Ha!

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  3. I have heard about the Cherokee; the Corn Mother and Red Clay. My advice for you is this, and it is directly from the Cherokee wise woman, Rising Fawn: take an offering of corn to the garden. "The corn is like our people. It draws strength from its clan. A single stalk will bear nothing." Always take your heritage with you."And be like the seed. Protect your life. Live deep in your spirit until the time to come forth." Marilou Awiakta,a Native American writer mentored by Alice Walker, writes about Selu, the Corn Mother; she uses the calico corn to explain an important concept; she writes, "[notice]How the different colored kernels are ranged around the cob, no one more important than the other. How each kernel respects the space of those on either side, yet remains itself-red, black, white, yellow, or combinations of those colors. How the Corn-Mother, in her physical being, exemplifies unity in diversity, 'from the many one' democracy. I think that the earth will accept your offering. Another point... at Red Clay, the beginning point of the Trail of Tears [1838 near Cleveland, Tennessee] there was a reunion on April 6, 1984 and an unexpected 20 thousand Cherokee came. Chief Robert Youngdeer raised his arms and spoke with the people (as reported by Awiakta)"When we came to Red Clay the trees were closed and cold. See in one day how the leaves have unfurled."
    Awakta writes this poem: Remember/how Mother Earth has renewed herself/how the people have endured/how hope has unfurled/invincibly!/Red Clay.
    I think that your garden will unfurl soon...and I think it is your life garden. In my vision, I have seen you in Appalachia, "When you have done all you can, stand and wait. Have faith." I see your survivor spirit thriving- along with your plants-in the new day break. Surya Namaskar

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  4. Cynthia, my theory now is that gardens here need a lot of variety. One thing dies from the heat or the endless rain or the sudden drought that cracks the clay soil and another thrives. Now that it is so wet the kale, broccoli and chard are doing well. In places the soil is gone and what is left is the slick wet clay. A few year-old eggplants keep bearing five or six long Oriental eggplants a week. And the summer squash has climbed onto the pile of brush when I cleared away a patch for a new garden and are dangling from the branches. The tomatoes which almost drowned are suddenly thriving, but I am only a bit hopeful since I know the slugs or a leaf virus can wipe them out. The beans that grew so long are now disappearing. The broad beans lasted a long time but died before giving any beans. The leeks have stopped growing because of the rain and it is time to replant a lot of things. I have often said that the good thing about the northern garden is the winter when it is all expectation and hope and there is no mix of disappointment. When I stop to think of my previous gardens here - kolrahbi, fennel, cabbage, beets, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and a few blueberry bushes that produced one of two blueberries a month (they were ever bearing or hardly ever bearing) I know I will never return to the same magnitude. Most of what I produced was washed, stored and then finally thrown out. There is only so much you can eat or even give away. It takes time giving things away. And I once had an herb garden with a bay tree, pineapple sage, red sage, apple mint, spearmint, tarragon, lemon balm, oregano, thyme. Gardens are a practice in rebirth, hard exercise for patience, and joy from both bounteous and meager plants. And I know that one day I will leave the garden and it will disappear under wild grass, vines, and tree shoots.

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  5. When I was a pre-teen and garden dreaming in the north, I would read seed catalogs by the fireplace. I imagined the green returning to the earth and could hardly wait until the weather changed. I suffered from the anticipation of spring. I remember my sisters and brother would all go spring-fever crazy when the weather changed. We were like a litter of puppies, junping over each other, barking and biting until someone cried out, "Mom, he/she hit me!" I always had a garden project in mind and many times my efforts at the standard tried and true were successful. But once I tore up a plot of grass and planted various tulip bulbs and such, only they did not thrive. I was disappointed at the failure but I learned that you try and give what you can and the rest is nature's decision. I could say the soil was not prepared properly, or the bulbs were not planted the right side up, or it was too wet/dry that year but I won't because I think somewhere in the other-and-beyond that the bulbs did not want to grow-and I respect their decision. I continued to attempt the garden but I decided to encourage what responded, give it whatever it needed, appreciate the bounty of the ordinary marigold, eat hot tomatoes off of the vine, and charish the silk tops of sweet corn. Meanwhile, I still read the "wish-books"-my father's name for catalogs-in the winter and now my dreams can be large scale; a Japanese garden with a bridge, Monet's garden where I will paint water colors like Beatrix Potter, and English cottage garden where I will have tea and chat with dear friends such as you and those readers who enjoy the memory and wish-garden almost as much as the real thing!

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  6. What a peachy description of your garden. I felt I was up in the green and dense mountains of Naranjito watching a parade of flowers and vegetebles pass me by. For me tending a garden suggests not only dedication and tenacity but also hope in the future. So many poets have used the metaphor of the garden of life nourishing mankind (the Garden of Eden one example).It's a communion with the earth and what the Buddhist call interconexion. We learn so much from gardens: temperance, patience, appreciation of beauty, growth, even jubilation when our favorite plants bloom and their scent permeate our abodes. Such is the delicacy Mother Earth's love.

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  7. Cynthia, I loved your comment on your garden. You should put it in as an entry, perhaps titled wish book or dream book. I get catalogs and look through them the same way. And I know that the pictures of the flowers and plants are somehow not real. They have plants that work as actors and models, giving us false hopes. But I have bags and bags of seeds in the refrigerator in the country that once were dreams. The dreams have been consolations, have sent my mind other places than what at times is harsh disappointment and struggle, so they were a good investment and since I still have them in the Ziplock bags in the refrigerator, the dreams have not completely died, but are changed a bit with each purchase.
    I could go on. Gardens define my relationship with my father, my self-consciousness, and in later years my acceptance of solitude. They are also a metaphor for guilt and for an abundance that can make me feel lonely.

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  8. I'm already garden dreaming in the fall so I understand; now is the time for my acceptance of things that are dying. I understand why you sat by the fire reading seed catalogs-it's cold up north! The fire made you warm and the visions of various growing plants created a different but comfortable world-place that might come true. And those bulbs; they bloom indoors before the offical spring. What a treat! I guess you never tried that...I'm like Mark, I order and order but not everything is planted-it's impossible. Still, I love it when the mail arrives and I know my dream seeds are here! We wait so much in life; isn't it wonderful to wait for new garden life instead of waiting at the check our line in the old A&P (-the grocery store)? Yogis plant for life!

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  9. I took Yogini's advice and made an offering of corn to the land;the corn was frozen so I had to microwave it. I figured the offering was more about the symbolic gesture so I took the few wet kernels down and scattered them over the garden plot. Then, I turned over the soil and scattered all of the bean seeds I had been saving. I accidently threw in some Swiss chard that was left over in the noodle-bean packet. Everything is coming up; the bean patch is full of plants-seriously, they have surpassed the pepper plants. Even the Swiss chard is sprouting, the young seedlings look like tomato plants. Thank you all for your interest in my garden; now, it might be truly amazing!

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