Guest Editorial: A return to the garden
by Jill Pertler, Slices of Life columnist
The older I get, the more I realize life ebbs and flows like the tide—rising, receding, coming in, going out. What is possible at high tide is impossible at low tide, and so on. This rhythm and change remains with us as we traverse through our days, months, years and seasons.
This summer, I returned to the garden. I’d taken a respite from having the earth between my fingers for nearly a decade. I’ve always loved putzing in the soil and enjoyed a fair amount of success with the hobby in my younger years. Until, like a vigorous crop of weeds, the hobby of raising kids sort of took over and I found it necessary to put my gardens aside—for the time being.
All the earth’s a stage and this summer, I reprised my role of gardener; it’s a bit part, really. No more than a supporting character. Mother Nature is the true headliner. Still, it felt good to rehearse my lines and get my hands dirty.
This summer I returned to the garden. During my absence the Earth did not change; I did.
In my youth, I dreamed of long-stemmed, vibrant blossoms. Foxglove. Delphinium. Lupine. Hollyhock. I planned and planted elaborate perennial beds where flowers would bloom in harmony throughout the growing season, providing a spectacular and well-directed symphony of color. Ta dah!
The years have made me older and perhaps wiser, but certainly more practical. This summer I returned to the garden—not to one of exotic blossoms—but rather one of vegetables. Beans, squash, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers stand sentry in the beautiful black dirt in my back yard. The stage is theirs and they’ve been cast as leads in this season’s production. The spotlight is on them.
Life ebbs and flows. I have returned to the garden, but it is different this time. I delight as my seeds sprout in simple, straight rows—radish, beets and spinach. I worry when a tomato plant droops. I thin seedlings, and mourn the tiny plants that must be written out of the script in order to make room for their neighboring co-stars’ growth.
I used to dream of a full-spectrum of colors decorating the yard; now my goal is filled mason jars stacked on the pantry shelves in the basement.
Youth is flashy. Thrilling. Trendy. All about the show. It is a good time—fun and exciting.
As life unfolds, youth gives way to experience. Showy transforms into something perhaps less ostentatious, but something worthwhile and just as satisfying. Putting a bouquet on the table is different than putting a salad on the table, but one is not more valued or valuable than the other. A 20-something me never would have predicted that pulling the first radish of the summer could be exhilarating. But it was.
Watching a show from the front row is different than watching from the nosebleed seats. Life is like that. Our perspective changes according to our current status and predicament. It is a newness we can count on, like the tide—a promise that tomorrow will be different from today.
Thank goodness. Think about how boring life would be if it weren’t.