"Perhaps, after all, it is not what you get out of a garden, but what you put into it, that is the most remunerative. ...By gardening, I do not mean that insane desire to raise vegetables which some have; but the philosophical occupation of contact with the earth, and companionship with gently growing things and patient processes; that exercise which soothes the spirit, and develops the deltoid muscles."The season is waning -- a gradual descent that does not sadden me, but affords me moments to pause. A few things remain -- some lingering chard, valiant against the cold; some sprouting kale and twigs of broccoli that won't likely come to any good. The carrots I have left to stretch out the season along with the parsnips and rutabagas and some other leafy thing whose identity I've forgotten -- but I dug up the beets and turnips this afternoon. In a week or so I will plant the new garlic for next year, and I have begun to ready the greenhouse for a winter experiment, but just now there is this window of in-betweenness I can only describe as "quiet."
----Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden, p. 53
What have I, following Warner's accounting, put into it this season regardless of what I've gotten out? I willingly confess to his indicted "insane desire to raise vegetables," but I nonetheless agree with his assessment. It has been the contact with the earth and companionship with gentle growth that has nourished me most these past many months. I was telling friends this week that I score my efforts a "C-" for the season, given the meagerness of the harvest. But the warmth and settledness of my spirit somehow doesn't comport with the lowliness of that grade. I have felt satisfaction, if not all that much fruitfulness. I have felt diligence, if not expertise. I have felt attentive and observant if not always productive -- not at all unlike my years in parish ministry. More often than not in those days the most I could do was be present; and as often as not presence was enough.
Naked brown stems still protrude from many of the trenches; I'll pull them up when I have the chance, along with the other acts of tending in preparation for next year. I begin the process of putting the furrows to bed for the winter with, if not much else, a bumper crop of tangled confusions I'll spend the next several months teasing out into comprehension. If I am successful. The dirt work, in other words, gives way to book work. And I, of course, enjoy that too.
And every bite -- regardless of where it came from -- I will chew more slowly, more gratefully, more appreciatively for the blessing of simply having it on my plate...
...and all it took to get it there.