This clayey soil, so poorly suited to vegetable farming, and yet: here I live. Just a few years back, this was a forest of mixed hardwoods, an understory of ferns and trilliums and trout lilies. We cleared this patch, picked a mountain of stones, pulled roots that fiercely clung to their ground. This patch of earth has endured six consecutive seasons of lime, manure, alternating cover crops of peas, oats, buckwheat. My efforts with shovel and compost yield good results, but this will never be the midwest’s fabled topsoil.
Our guests on this Memorial Day, first time visitors to our house, were gracious, companionable, and — best of all — engagingly funny. Fine croquet players, too. Walking through the garden and its evening black flies, they said they could see how beautiful the garden could be. Listening, I realized how all in my head my garden currently lies. These early leaves of broccoli plants, these carrot seeds, the pea fences, the bean poles, the tomato plants just nestled in their beds, the basil hardly more than scraps of green debris. A month along, and this story will be wholly different. Knee high much of the garden will be, the peas beyond my waist.
But for now, this is all rough potential, a lumpy pile of manure, the arch of the sunflower house not yet sown, the sweet peas that by July will trail fragrantly over this half circle not yet germinated. Faith is in the potential, sown in the experience that becoming will persevere in becoming.
Gardening, nothing is as simple as bury a seed in the soil and gather a handful of sweet peas X number of days hence. Too much or too little rain, weeds, insects, animals, a running toddler, all create havoc with this orderly plan. Or, my orderly plan. The universe has perhaps an entirely different notion altogether. Which made me think of this line:
…. emotions are essentially physical forces, and if they seem to express themselves at the strangest moments, it is because, like physical forces, they must sooner or later emerge…. (Allen Shawn, Twin)
In this spring season of raw, harrowed up earth, what will emerge from my garden soil? In writing, what will emerge from a rough draft, if I sow seeds and step back to appraise? What’s different from what I had intended? Have pumpkin seeds from the compost volunteered into the brassica, determined to take root? I opened my garden gates for these new neighbors, the youngest of this family a little boy who repeated one of his few words over and over tonight: look, look, look. Look, I whispered to my daughter tonight, brushing my finger over the line on her upper arm where her skin turns from white to nut-brown from her playing hours in the sun. In what ways will these newly-met people shape and turn our lives?
What is essential is invisible to the eye. This piece of Vermont earth has thawed. A gentle rain falls on the tin roof outside my opened window. The universe, seen and unseen, shifts.