I’m in the process of making a photo book of my growing season for my grandmother, who doesn’t use computers and lives too far away to receive surprise produce packages. In doing so, I’ve been forced to consolidate a season’s worth of photographs into a single place, and it’s surprisingly satisfying to see evidence of what I managed to achieve during my first go at it.
The other night I was talking to Jon, shyly, about how I felt I could handle a much larger garden next year — perhaps even one big enough to turn a small commercial profit. It was frightening to even put that little ambition out there, though.
Having a garden is not like walking into the produce section of a supermarket. It’s not all neatly laid out. It doesn’t look anything like Oprah’s set-up as evidenced by her glossy magazine testimonials. It’s sloppy and buggy and muggy, the vines tangle and I leave tools out all the time. Vegetables hide. And worst of all, they don’t all come into harvest at the same time. It happens in rolling waves. At least, it did for me.
Of course, long before I even set out to garden I knew all of this already, much like how I knew that living together with someone would be difficult times and that pet dogs can be a burden and that college is sometimes very difficult. But I didn’t yet know what it meant to know, to experience it, to fail and succeed by my own accord and measurements.
Now, of course, I know.
Between the flooding and my subsequent absence from the garden in August, I returned to find everything rotted or burned to near ash by the sun. But two days ago, I ventured one last time into that grassy jungle to locate a spade I’d left in the green bean patch, and what do you know? I found one last harvestable crop of green beans. They kept growing even after I abandoned all effort.
So look at them. They’re flawed. The passing mouths of insects have scarred their sticky and fine-thorned skins. Size varies. They look nothing like the clean rows you find in grocery stores. Their flesh is coarser than the hybridized green beans I was raised on and expect. I don’t even know if they’re what they’re supposed to be — but they are what they are. What I’ve grown. From seed. With only my own hands.