Life goes on, with or without our "help." It goes on with or without our management. Life just knows how to carry on. It doesn't need us to dominate it, to subdue it, or to pretend we're anything important. Life is just programmed to keep going.
We started our garden as one of the first orders of business upon moving to Nashville St. in early 2007. It was the first major garden project we worked on for ourselves. (The one at the previous house the year before was really Phil and Nancy's initiative in our back yard.) In mid-March 2007, Kelli and I enlisted help from Tara and Kalyn, friends from church, to tear up and strip grass from the bedroom-sized plot that had been fallow for years. We had a truckload of nice wood shavings and other organic material, chicken shit, and worm casings that we mixed into the sandy loam. It was quite a day's work. That garden produced for us for three years. There were a number of spiritual lessons that emerged from working the soil, tending plants, and of course, reaping the returns.
The second year was the start of a period when I could go nuts with composting, especially since I was able to bring home so much veggie food from work. Some of the compost was accidentally scattered too early, so the second year started a period of volunteer veggies that turned up and were pretty hardy. The third year I started an open compost pile in the back quadrant of the yard, and fed it with leaves and a weekly-delivered bag of cuttings from Stingaree restaurant. One of the chefs lived a mile from me and dropped it over my fence!
But then we got into a few months of bad news about our landlord's losing the house due to their being on the take for all the time we were there. They didn't pay their mortgage apparently, so we started getting rumblings and then confirmation that there was supposed to be an auction. We could have ridden it out longer, but we stopped paying rent until they told us what was going on. It dissolved in a few days in October 2009, so we moved in a scramble, narrowly avoiding the cutoff named on a pay or quit notice. That is, Kelli and I moved. Suzanne was not so sure about the legality of things, or what the status was. And, as a person who does not find moving too fun or convenient (as a late-term grad student who has disabilities), she was inclined to ride out all she could. She did. It took about eight months before the bank firmly had the house and gave her a year's extension at the lease rate that she had prior to the end of the landlord's ownership. But, since she was only one third of the original $1,800 agreement, and they knew they were going down (and liked Suzanne well enough, more than they like Kelli and me), they wrote her a new lease for $600 for the whole place just before the bank got it. So she got to stay one more year at the place for $600 a month! A two bedroom house with a granny flat, yards, garage— $600! She made a killing on that. But that just came to an end. Suzanne herself had to move last month.
We're all quite friendly, house or no house. Suzanne enlisted Kelli or me to do occasional yard work, lawn mowing, trimming, and all. She sort of minded the garden in its first year after we left. It still had a few plants that soldiered on during 2010. We got over there often enough to see it, but it was getting grown over little by little. Earlier this year, I went to cut the lawn and was quite moved by the presence of the bell pepper plant fighting the good fight. The crop was not going to be any good, but it showed up anyway. There wasn't anything else showing at the time, so I mowed on over it all, after saying a few kind words to the plot, thanking it for producing against the odds, and giving me a lot of instruction over the years.
That was back in March, just before I headed off to New Mexico. More recently, the time came for us to gather our things that we had left for Suzanne to use, or that we had moved back over into the garage for basic storage. In the midst of our comings and goings, I spotted the chives and mint pictured below. Chives in blossom, rich with flavor. Mint, spreading as it does, underground, spreading roots and ready to pop up all over the place. It was the gift that kept on giving.
It just heightened my awareness of something I already knew to be true: the garden wasn't my invention. It wasn't to glorify me in any way. I really know diddly squat about gardening. Maybe just enough to be dangerous. Gardening draws a person into a dance with mystery. There are things that one can bring to the table; conditions that can be put in place. But I can't make the seed grow. It doesn't need much from me. Even after mowing the plot a few times over during its fallow year and a half since we left, a couple plants soldier on, speaking life where others see failure, disappointment, neglect, and even abuse. The universe has a place for all that. Life has a place for all that. To drive by, you see a fallow plot that is rather unkempt and grown over with grass and weeds. Ah, but look closer.