Last March, I gave Jon the poem, “A Birthday” by W.S. Merwin. Its closing lines:
“The long way to you is still tied to me / but it brought me to you”
express exactly how I feel about this garden and everything it represents.
You’ll learn more about us in the coming weeks, but the way we got here was no straight path. My story isn’t the one I’d have necessarily chosen for myself — false starts, “too much education,” time wasted — but it’s the only story I’ve got and I’ve finally landed in a place I want to stay for a while.
We started planting a few weeks behind the optimal Missouri growing times, delayed by weird weather and the home stretch of my graduate school program. But here I am, a newly-minted MFA.
Lately everyone seems to want to know, “What are you doing with your masters?” And when I tell them, “I’m going to be a farmer!” they’re either utterly disgusted (ahem, my father) or skeptical (half the people in Mac County think I’m a crazy hippy — “donkey” is the term that seems to be floating around) or totally, completely supportive.
Regardless, Jon plowed the field and, last weekend, we set to work on our seeding.
Until last weekend, my gardening experience was limited to a hot muggy summer in Minnesota when I worked for a landscaping company. I spent those days happily listening to audiobooks while I deadheaded pansies and watered potted plants. It was the most peaceful season of my life.
But I don’t know a thing about vegetable gardening. Over three or four days, we planted away, scraping the ground (mostly clay, pretty rocky) with our bare hands to lay down impossibly small lettuce and tomato seeds, pricking our fingertips with spinach seeds, using a stick to poke 2″ deep holes for corn. It sounds ideal, and in a way it was, but it’s not far enough behind me to feel nostalgic and sentimental about the whole process just yet.
After the first day, a small part of me wanted to give up immediately. My back ached, and I was sore from hours of squatting. It was also hot (in the 80s) and muggy (my shirt was soaked with sweat) and buggy (I got a tick beneath my belly button on the first day). Plus, I’d made a number of irreversible mistakes: 1. Planted 1,000 lettuce seeds within a 20 foot stretch and then forgotten which rows I’d planted them, 2. Miscounted the number of rows we actually have, which threw my scribbled charts off, 3. Accidentally planted some seeds (but can’t remember which ones) off the irrigation lines.
Meanwhile, all week long, I’ve wrung my hands over my bloopers.
“Planting seeds is, ultimately, an act of faith. Some are so small they seem invisible.”
But once you stick a seed in the ground, what more can you do but hope? A part of me feels like planting seeds is, ultimately, an act of faith. Some are so small they seem invisible. And you literally can’t see them once you drop them in the dirt. They just disappear.
“They’ll come up,” Jon says. “Just pray for rain.”
So I am.