A rogue cherry tomato plant is sporting fruit in the midst of the beets. Another is peaking through the wildflower bed that replaced the compost pile. Last year a zucchini plant surprised us, flourishing in that very pile.
And then there are the sunflowers.
We planted several sunflower seeds around the property this spring, but so far as I can assess nothing has come from them. Perhaps they lacked moisture when it was most critical. Or perhaps they were crowded and smothered by competing growth. I certainly could have been more attentive to their needs, cultivating and coddling and coaxing. All I can say with certainty is that those chosen locations are silent and void.
But we have sunflowers. Towering up between the cabbages and tomatoes are a handful of volunteers that took it upon themselves to grow where their last-season ancestors dropped their seeds. Never mind the intervening tiller and hoe; never mind the crowding, otherwise-assigned real estate of the garden, it was quite apparently in their interest to grow. And now, as July dissolves into August, they tower over the garden rows as sentinel observers – whether with welcome or warning I cannot say.
A more fastidious gardener would have yanked them long ago as intrusions in the orderliness of the plantings. But I rather like them there – random acts of nature’s kindness – contributing beauty, to be sure, and whimsical novelty; but also because of their silent but stately reminder that I am not finally in control of this soil. There are underworkings of which I am completely unaware – silent and minuscule machinations beneath the surface that, yes, sometimes produce weeds and other invasives against which I will wage horticultural battle; but also, from time to time, and in always surprising places, the very towering blossom of…
Though I haven’t adequately rehearsed the discipline, this garden experience prompts me to survey the corners and rows of the other parts of my life; suspecting the very real likelihood that unexpected graces could well be showing their faces there, too – among the grocery store aisles or the freeway lanes or the pedestrian steps of the sidewalk…
…nudging and elbowing their way into bloom; parading their colors to any with the eyes to see; preparing, in the coming weeks, to scatter their seeds for yet future surprises; next year’s garden plan be damned.