Growth and Failure.Posted: July 4, 2012 | |
That, my friends, is a cucumber. A cucumber left on the vine far too long, left to turn bitter (no, no…like, REALLY bitter) out of our refusal to embark on understanding how to harvest our garden. See, our cucumbers grow curly. No one we’ve talked to knows why. So, we developed a theory just like any novice gardener should (ha!): When they straighten out, they’re ready to pick. Never mind that they yellow in the process. Disregard the fact that by the time they’re straight they’re white on one side. Just let them straighten and clearly things will work out. Or not.
It was one of those mistakes that smacks the hubris right out of you. After snipping all the cucumbers from the plant, I sat down and googled our crookneck squash. I googled when to harvest and how, and then I diligently pruned away the withering bits from this garden behemoth, piling them against the cucumbers like a zero sum equation. I hope mites or beetles or spiders don’t crawl into the little hollow holes left behind from my pruning. I tried to bend the stalks into the earth. They wouldn’t stick, though. The earth wouldn’t hold them. I quit trying.
Which is all to say, that this little makeshift attempt at the beginnings of an urban homestead feel a lot like the rest of our lives these days. I’ve started a phenomenal new job (you can click here to read about the work this organization does…truly, it is humbling to add my voice to their endeavors) and, though this is something we have collectively worked towards for years, embarking on this new chapter still feels sudden. It’s like my first day of school all over again or, you know, crouching before our first vegetable and herb garden: I am astonished by the growth that’s already transpired, awed by the possibility for future growth, and completely unnerved about how to harvest it all, how to harness it into sustenance and sustainability and satisfaction.
This garden is ours insofar as we all water it, we all talk about it, we all eat from it. It is mine, though, insofar as I’m the person who needed it. I’m the person who came home with a trunk full of soil and starters, and I’m the person who turned bookshelves on their sides and dared to unstack pots (hello, spiders) and such until we had enough planters for a small series of raised beds. I’m the person who, a year out of college–a year out of a nine year long journey to complete college–still felt lost. I needed growth to be visible. I needed to be reminded constantly that growth requires patience and gentleness and care and steadfastness. And so I planted a garden. She of the black thumbs spent an afternoon under the sun, pulling a tangled metaphor from my head until it lay before me to see. And on days and during weeks when I felt stuck/stupid/useless/purposeless/ashamed/guilty/lost/countless-other-feelings-that-come-from-struggling-to-find-a-job , I watered that garden and pruned those earnest plants and snipped those tender herbs and felt calm, remembered that we are earth through and through, that we are the stuff of stars, that it is all, really, a zero sum equation.
It is not a coincidence that after my first official day at my new job I finally decided to cut the cucumbers and taste just how far we’d let them go. It is not a coincidence that tonight as the sun drifted behind the brick wall at the back of our yard I finally took the time to read about the rest of our plants. Their growth is in me. It always was, but now I can feel it. So now I can give it back, I can help them grow.