Communing in the gardens.

Scaly Rustgills under my fig tree.

Late this morning the sun came out again, and shined on all the droplets of dew and fog. I had a date to keep in town, but I noticed through the window that the fountain was dripping instead of flowing, so I went out to put the hose in there for a few minutes. Of course I saw many glowing leaves and caught the scent of decay. How can decomposition smell so fresh, and how does the earth’s breathing wake up my whole body?

Lavender under a net.

I took a few pictures and then I was happy to be on my way, on to the community garden to meet my friend Bella where we have been together a few times before.  Strolling through other people’s gardens is thoroughly relaxing and nourishing; lots of interest and no responsibility. A garden comprised of dozens of gardens, each with its special personality, is even better.

Often we get to take home some treats, for immediate food or for seeds. Bella found ears of corn lying in the path, and she showed me where a few beans hung from a trellis, the seeds somehow still dry and clean inside the mildewed pods. How could I not bring a few home to try? The way those beans offered themselves suggested a small planting, which is not intimidating. And they are intriguing Mystery Beans to me as yet; does anyone here know what kind they are? Such a dreamy-creamy color…  (below).

After my first big greenhouse planting project last winter, and the way so many of my starts did not take off, or for various reasons never bore fruit in my own garden, I am ready this spring to try just a few things, a few seeds…. a more minimalist garden.

What if my pumpkins had been successful, and I’d ended up with half a dozen of those gorgeous French cucurbits such as I roasted yesterday? They would have been too heavy for me to lug around the neighborhood as gifts.

I picked a bagful of meaty, rainwashed collard leaves from Bella’s plot, and the sweetest parsley ever from the free-for-all borders. The calendulas I gave my friend last spring are still blooming there under the collard canopy, and looking wintery — the sun may be bright on days like today, but its rays are sharply slanted, and every image is darkened by shadows.

Another plot owner was there with his teenage daughter, whose name I didn’t learn, but I will call her Maria. They gave me cilantro from their bed, a generous bunch of it, which I’m sure was the most fragrant I’ve ever got a whiff of, just picked after being hydrated for weeks. Maria came to talk to me while I was bent over the parsley, and we chatted about cooking. She filled me in on the hearty ham-and-eggs meal she had helped to make for breakfast this Saturday morning, and agreed that cooking for only oneself the way I do would be difficult.

Her father José talked about how his children don’t like to come to the garden with him. Maria explained, “We never want to bother getting out of bed and going outside unless something is happening that day, if we are going somewhere or people are coming over….” She smiled when I said, “Oh, but things are happening here: the plants are busy growing!”

Today, of course, was unlike any other, and I felt the restfulness of January, and cautioned how it would not even be a good idea to pull weeds when the soil was so wet. Maria and her father seemed quite contented. She may have had the same unconscious rejuvenating response in her body and psyche that Bella and I were having, being in the open air surrounded by trees and grass, fava bean plants and every kind of brassica exhaling oxygen. And Maria did get to be with people.

After our new friends left, Bella and I wandered up and down the rows, admiring every leftover bit of life, such as two tiny bright red peppers clinging to dead stick stems. We examined a banana tree that appeared to have been stricken by frost, but we hoped not killed. And we sat at a picnic table listening to the tinkle of the wind chimes, as hummingbirds swooped back and forth over our heads. It was a simple gift of a day.

11 thoughts on “Communing in the gardens.

  1. I’ve been getting into our garden recently for the first time in a while. I’ve had some success striking hydrangeas, which I’m very excited about. What exactly are collard greens? I’ve never hear that term in Australia and wonder if there’s another name for them. We call arugula rocket so it may be just a different way of naming.

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      1. It isn’t common here but I found an online seed provider that has the seeds. We have a lot of Asian greens which would probably be similar and also kale. I don’t really like kale that much.
        Yes, striking is taking a cutting to propagate. I usually just stick them in water and they form roots. Very satisfying & even though I don’t have a green thumb for food gardening, I do pretty well with flowers.

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  2. A lovely post. You were where I think we naturally are most at peace and rest: earth at hand, in the raw presence of life growing, dying, resting, and growing again, harvesting what the body knows and understands, all underneath the big sky with others who breathe the same simplicity. No competition, only gratefulness for God’s sustenance for each day.

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  3. I do enjoy wandering through other people’s gardens ( and my own too but right now it’s covered with snow). I’m so pleased that January is a third gone. I know I shouldn’t wish time away but I find January hard.

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  4. I love how you described the communal feeling of the community garden — sharing plantings and chatting with new friends. A community garden in every way. And how lovely you can garden in the midst of January! I can’t even keep my rosemary plant alive in the house this winter and now have enough dried rosemary to start my own company!

    Cooking for one doesn’t have to be complicated! I have found Marie’s recipe on The English Kitchen blog are great because she does a lot of small batch things, which are perfect for two but make a wonderful meal for one with a leftover day. I also break up meat I buy so I can cook just one or two chicken thighs or half of a pork tenderloin and have the other half in the freezer for another time. It takes some thinking but can be rather fun if you like to cook! With all those fresh veggies (and parsley — I love it!) you already start with a wonderful palette!

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  5. Your entire description of the garden that day sounds relaxing and soothing to me. We need these experiences, and God’s creation is designed to give them. It was too cold yesterday to be outside, but hopefully today I will sit out with the dogs, get some vit. D on my face, and look around at tiny things beginning to timidly emerge. Daffodil bulbs for sure. Forsythia, and my pussy willow stalk has bright red buds on it. Our cilantro is fabulous right now too! We had it last night on bowls of rice, beans, tomatoes, corn, cheese, and crema.

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