I wasn't anticipating being able to get out into the garden at all this weekend -- we had another conference on Saturday, and then it was supposed to storm from Saturday afternoon through Monday morning, but Sunday ended up being unexpectedly nice out most of the day. I started early (or early for me on a weekend, anyway) and got out there by ten, and kept going straight through until almost five.
Now, I'm a pretty lazy person, and as such our whole yard has started off the gardening season in severe disarray. Somewhere around June last year I just lost my steam (the 90 degree temps, constant rain, swarms of mosquitoes, aggressively evil hive of yellow jackets living next to my back door, and sweltering humidity may have had something to do with that...last summer sucked) and the weeds launched an offensive that had to be seen to be believed. Between the 8' stinging nettles, lamb's quarters trees growing in my strawberry bed, and grassy things with a 4' diameter, there was no coming back. By the end of the summer I was so thoroughly disillusioned that I neglected to do the fall cleanup I should have done, and as a result we started off the year with overgrown, yucky garden beds. I was afraid it would be a solid month of drudgery before I'd be able to even plant anything, let alone have the yard look okay, but we've only put in about 11-12 hours of total work so far and we're in pretty good shape. Last week we overhauled all three raised beds from last year and did some general cleanup; this week we ripped out the sod for another bed, cleaned up three of the six sections of narrow garden on the other side of the sidewalk, raked a ton of dead grass out of the yard, and laid down an insane quantity of mulch. I didn't plant as much as I wanted to, but did at least get some peas and onions in the ground.
But, you know, as disheartening as it can be sometimes when you just can't seem to keep up, there's something rejuvenating about getting out there and putting in the physical labor. I'm going to be sore as hell tomorrow, but it's really uplifting to not be able to turn over a trowelful of dirt in my garden without exposing fat, happy earthworms; it's wonderful to feel and smell healthy, loose, rich soil and know that I'm maintaining something amazing that supports layer upon layer of life, into which I can stick a pathetically tiny seed and end up with huge carrots or onions or beans or marigolds or a hundred other things. It's rewarding to see my chives and valerian coming back and to know soon there will be big clumsy bumblebees and colorful butterflies flitting from flower to flower, that soon I'll be able to walk out after an afternoon storm and watch the evening sun refract through the droplets on the lamb's ear and catnip and bounce off my bottle border and cast little rainbows.
This year I'm growing things I haven't grown before, many of which are heirlooms or plants you don't find at the grocery store or most garden centers. And when I'm out there up to my elbows in soil, sending spiders and beetles scurrying, feeling the wind and the sun, I feel like I'm growing a connection to the past as much as I'm sowing vegetables or herbs. Those Amish tomatoes, that quinoa, those currants and gooseberries, the indigo and hyssop and feverfew -- people have been growing these things for far longer than I've been alive. And I feel like in a time and place where people just grow...grass...we've lost a vital appreciation for how amazing these other things we've found and cultivated and encouraged are. There are things in my garden that will prevent migraines. How many trips to the doctor do people make trying to figure out a way to do that? There are things in my garden that are substitutes for sugar. There's a plant that makes a natural insecticide, several that treat anxiety, and by this point more than ten that make delicious teas. Even the weeds that grow in my yard are useful -- I can eat the dandelions and lamb's quarters; the nettles are great for the kidneys and incredibly nutritious to boot; the catnip and yarrow are beautiful and medicinal. The "garbage" from weeding and cleanup can become new soil, or feed the chickens. I can even make wine out of some of it, like the dandelions or the pea-pods left over when I'm done eating our spring peas. Our old broken-down stump grows a profusion of mushrooms; even our compost pile is inevitably full of potatoes and tomatoes by the end of the summer. I don't work hard enough to earn the kind of bounty that's presented to me as if it were the most inevitable thing in the world, as if it were nothing at all.
Two weeks ago it was winter, the kind of winter I wouldn't want to spend much time outside in. And tonight it will storm like crazy again, with wind and pouring rain and maybe hail. And yet I'll go outside tomorrow morning and the trees will be budding and the birds will be singing as if nothing had happened at all, and I'll remember again with relief how small and unimportant I am to a world that can bounce back from extremes that would send me diving for cover, and think that as much as I neglect things and fail and screw up, as much as humanity in general screws up, odds are a million years from now all of this will still be out there thriving, living and growing and dying and living again, as if I'd never existed at all.
And I can't tell you how happy that makes me.