Saturday, March 20, 2010

Patience is a prerequisite

"Patience is commonly held to be a gardener's most important virtue, but since a gardener without patience is unimaginable, patience is less a virtue than it is a prerequisite for being a gardener in the first place."

- J├╝rgen Dahl, The Curious Gardener


The peas finally came up. Eh hem. I put some of those babies out a month ago. And then replanted. Poor things.

And this is what happens when you decide that the chive seeds just couldn't do it at 70 degrees. They wanted it colder, or warmer. Anyway, they're not coming. And then you plant basil seeds on top of them. And then the chives come up.

There is a drive as I get better at this to push things, to use skill and tools to hurry things. You feel it at the market certainly: those producers with big hot houses, who get their tomatoes in a week earlier, or a nice sandy south-facing slope that lets them bring a crop of asparagus to the market in March - people hop all over them. They're like celebrities. With certain home gardeners, too, there is a slight sense of competition, "Oh, you have eggplants . . ." And then there is the practical factor of just getting a melon to ripen before the days are too short again. Dahl talks a lot and well about the gardener's sense of time, how the plants teach us about our time in the rest of our lives, how, unlike us, they really can't be hurried. The trick of course, is to be ready when they're ready. To be prepared, sensitive, aligned. To have the plan and the seeds, the free time, the intuition, the observations - so that on the first day of the first stretch of true summer weather you happen to be in the mood to put the first beans in the ground. This trick reminds me of motherhood, and of other sensitive, resilient, extremely variable interfaces in my life: if you do it just a little wrong, you can hardly tell in the long run. The peas still come up, the basil and the chives, they still come up, they still grow. But if you do it right, you can tell. You step on the moving sidewalk of life, and it just carries you.

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