I find it hard to throw myself into something if my life doesn’t depend on it. My siblings and I used to use the phrase, “Do it right, or don’t do it at all,” and it came to my head last week. I didn’t realize it’s a motto I still chant under my breath.
Yesterday, I went out to hoe weeds and dig a little trench in the garden, and I took a bowl with me. I always do, because there’s always something to be cut or picked. I worked for half and hour and came back to the house with a handful of basil leaves, two sprigs of dill, and one green pepper. I imagined Mom trying to make a meal of it for the six of us.
I want my life to lean on the land and shift with the seasons, but as many Wendell Berry novels as I read and homestead Instagrammers I follow, my backyard is not a farm and my garden cannot feed my family and we’re not allowed to pen up animals. (Waldo didn’t count. He was a range-free pet duck.)
Mom slices the pepper and stirs it into hamburger from Frick’s Market. We eat it on Aldi bread.
I sometimes stand in my garden and wonder about the worth of something that only gives you a zucchini or pepper every few weeks. I wonder what it’d be like to live with the soil as my lifeblood, like Athey Keith or Matt Feltner. I must look like a sad, suburban joke to them.
But then I take up my hoe and weed what I have, and I pick that one zucchini and run it down a cheese grater and mix it into cinnamon and flour and bake it into bread loaves— the moistest you’ve ever tried.
I remember back to March, when I kept those big seeds under an LED light in the basement until they sprouted leaves. In April, I tucked them into the bed by the picket fence, where they stretched their arms.
It’s been a journey of months, from seed to table. Even then, we could never live off zucchini bread.
But today, when I moved through the garden with Elsie and parted the leaves to let her see a baby on its vine, and I told her how we plant things, pick them, dry them, eat them, then do it again next summer, and she nodded that it made sense, I knew the worth of it all.
I might not garden to live, but I will always garden to remember — where I came from, where I’m going.
“And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” ~ Genesis 2:8