Small Seeds of Hope: Seedtime and Harvest
This morning I picked more than 11 pounds of cucumbers! Those of you who are inveterate gardeners may not be impressed, but given a postage stamp garden, a dry-ish summer, and a semi-neglectful gardener (yours truly), that's downright amazing.
On the other hand, I should not be totally surprised. I followed the seed-planting advice on the packet--6 seeds to a hill (okay, so I might have tucked in an extra 1 or 2 in case they didn't germinate well, so that would make 8). I did not, however, abide by the words of wisdom about thinning--leave only 3 per hill. Somehow I couldn't bring myself to pull any of them up; they looked so hopeful, waving in the light spring breeze. "I'll do it tomorrow," I said. And then when tomorrow came I would do a repeat (non)performance. And finally they got so big I could almost hear them pleading to be left in the ground, so they could show what they could do.
I planted them in mid-April, so maybe as the pandemic worsened, with undercurrents--and overcurrents--of fear and worry roaming the world, I wanted to give all of them a chance to live. And since tears spring to my eyes as I write this, it's likely true, even if I didn't realize it at the time.
Gratefully, my cucumbers know nothing of the pandemic, as far as I am aware, anyway.
They are happy to go on being fully themselves, growing and producing and giving, without anxiety or "forethought of grief" (from "The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry).
So they continued to grow, and I continued to not thin them out. And now they are taking over the garden. So we are eating them in various forms--the current favorite being cuke sticks dipped in curry dressing: curry powder, mayo, and kefir (or yogurt or milk) to get the mayo to the right consistency, with a little cumin and cinnamon tossed in for complexity. HINT: If you let it sit for a couple of hours, it will turn a delightful bright yellow.
Earlier today we put about 10 cukes out near our mailbox with a "Free" sign; Lawrence came inside a little while ago to let me know they were all gone, giving us that nice distributing-largesse feeling, and some happy friends and neighbors.
Seeds have such a delightful, concentrated potential. In winter, gardeners build their dreams from seeds, of growing and becoming, of hope and delicious gifts to share and enjoy.
But what if those seeds just stay in their colorful paper packets? Or fall on a hard-packed path? Since there are no cracks or soft places on that well-traveled track, they remain simply seeds, small specks of organic matter, offering, at best, an afternoon snack for a hungry bird.
And if they fall on rocky ground? There might be a little soil, a little moisture but it is deceptive. The naïve, non-discriminatory seed may sprout here faster than anywhere else, warmed as it is by the sun. Yet the seed is unable to send its roots down to seek moisture and nourishment because there is no depth. So that poor thing shrivels into a dry thread.
And if there are a few weeds? Well, it's just a few. And they're not very big. Yet. Initially the seed may sprout well--after all, it's good soil. So perhaps there is hope. But alas, like my poor unweeded basil plants last summer, these seedlings have all their nutrients leeched away by the already established competitors. They do not die, but neither do they flourish.
But, oh joy! If I loosen the soil, go after the weeds, add some good humus and nutrients, and water them regularly--et voilà--those tiny bits of matter can eventually metamorphose into fine, crisp, cool and delicious foodstuff. Truly amazing.
And then, of course, come the metaphors. Are parts of me too well traveled, too hard-bitten, without a place soft enough to receive and nurture a seed? Or do I receive a seed too easily sometimes, letting it stay on the surface due to layers of jagged fear or anger? Do I fool myself into believing I will see fruit, without any tending, simply because I see a tiny sprout? Is the good stuff squelched and crowded out by weeds?
Oh yes, I have all those oh-so-human tendencies. But fortunately some of the seeds, more carefully sown, find a loving, moist and protected home. And they flourish. And I flourish. And can offer good things to friends and strangers alike. The whole process, both inner and outer, can be so deeply and heartfully satisfying.
This parable of the seeds did not begin with me, of course. It is, as you probably know, an old, old story, first told by a certain Palestinian rabbi, more than two thousand years ago.
I'll close with my favorite super-short poem, by Luci Shaw:
my feelings about rain.
Until next time,
P.S. If you live in the Charlottesville area, please feel free to drop by and pick up some cukes!
Cover photo, watering, Markus Spiske, unSplash
Cukes in basket, Microsoft
Cukes on vine, Microsoft