"The principal value of a private garden is not understood. It is not to give the possessor vegetables and fruit (that can be better and cheaper done by the market gardeners), but to teach him patience and philosophy, and the higher virtues, -- hope deferred, and expectations blighted, leading directly to resignation, and sometimes to alienation. The garden thus becomes a moral agent, a test of character, as it was in the beginning. I mean to have a moral garden, if it is not a productive one, -- one that shall teach...the great lessons of life."
---Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, 1870.
I must confess that I began with somewhat lower expectations. I simply wanted to learn about growing food. Like death and dying, this central element of living has moved away from home for most of us, to the "experts" who handle such things on behalf of the rest of us. Sensing that we lose something precious in this removal, I resolved to do something about the agricultural aspect, if not quite so immediately the funereal.
Along the way, however, the garden has indeed expanded its curriculum, becoming a multifaceted classroom for the heart and soul as well as the mind and stomach. Lessons in patience I expected -- gratification delayed -- but "hope deferred" caught me by surprise. It has not come to "resignation" or "alienation", although more than a few expectations have been "blighted," and the season is not concluded. I had not thought too much of Eden in the context of my humble enclosure of furrows and trellised vines, but as with that first one my little garden is an active moral agent and test of character, touching on more than a few sage nuggets.
It doesn't, for example, have to be "grocery store perfect." Just last night we sauteed some swiss chard that bugs had swiss cheesed with holes. It wasn't, perhaps, photographable, but it was delicious. I have already lost count of the BLT's we have enjoyed, built around cracked tomatoes.
And so I am grateful for all that is happening in the little "schoolhouse" behind our house -- all it is teaching, and all I am struggling to learn. The brussel sprouts still haven't shown themselves, but who knows? And if worse comes to worse and we have to survive without them...
...well, I am sure there are more horrible fates. We may be hungrier, but we'll at least have beauty.