When September arrived, my heart was caught in flurry of garden must-do’s. It was perennial time and sweet pea planting time. We worked feverishly through Labor Day weekend. My excitement drove my energy forward despite the pregnancy. One of the most important tasks, in my mind, was to plant the sweet peas. Unable to bend, I dug the holes with a shovel and set my five-year-old to sow the seeds. “They’ll be your sweet peas,” I told her for motivation, “and when they bloom you can pick them and make a bouquet.”
But we were in too great a rush. I never installed the necessary trellis to support these vining plants. Spring came and with it the shoots of sweet peas who mangled other plants, housed pincher bugs and one black widow.
They were beautiful, albeit demanding.
This past weekend, at the beginning of June, it was time to take them out, half-dried, and allow the other plants to breathe. I set my girls to work.
I hauled the bushy bundles to the sidewalk, gave one daughter a pair of snips and other scissors, and said, “look for the dry, brown pods and put them in this basket.”
We talked about selling the seeds, about gifting the seeds and replanting the seeds.
“Why are we doing this?” Asked my nine-year-old, who has bigger things to do.
“Because we should,”
I answered, a jumble of other thoughts bouncing around my sleep-deprived mind.
We have the seeds. The seeds are easy to harvest. We should not waste them.
Creation demands a little respect.
But I can only hear its demands when I bow to the fact that I am a steward and not the creator.
We stop all other projects in September to plant.
We drop them again in spring to plant, weed, and ensure good watering practices before the heat comes.
And again in summer when the field needs irrigating, the vegetables need trellising and the flowers need picking.
We make this choice to submit. We could simply go to the grocery store, instead.
But in the labor, in the commitment, in the mistakes, we are reminded of the bigger thing. We did not make it, and so we have rules to follow that are not ours. I do not create the rules myself. I cannot plant the sun-loving plant in the shade and I cannot will the shade loving plant to flourish in full California sun. “I think therefore I am” has no place when faced with the reality of nature.
I must observe, listen, accept the reality of things and adapt my plans.
Like life, I cannot will this plant to thrive.
Like the garden, the quality of another is not dependent on my saying it is.
It is my life that is lacking if I fail to recognize the value, the uniqueness and the beauty that lies around me, outside of me, not made by me, not determined by me.
My life is better when I open myself up to discover, to be in awe. And I feel the value of my life recognized when others do the same for me. That value is easier to hold against the temptation to self-deprecation or despair when my weaknesses rear their ugly little heads.
But in a world where we are told we make our own reality, we define our terms, it is easier and easier to forget that there are rules, laws, and rights to be recognized, submitted to and upheld. The world is a grief-filled, gritty place, like this rocky soil I tend each week. It is filled with trouble, like the weeds I pull to protect the growth of something inexplicably beautiful. It takes work to make the world as it could be.
But when we do it, the result is something more true, more unifying and more beautiful than we could ever imagine. And that is worth the humility of moving a plant and tying a trellis in the allotted time.