Thursday, January 31, 2008

Gardening: A Study in Faith

I've spaded and harrowed and planted the seeds,
Now things in my garden are growing like weeds.
There's only one problem I've noticed so far -
Weeds are what ninety percent of them are!

This is the time of year when I give up any semblance of civility and devote myself to my spring ritual: Plant Torture. Every year, the same thing happens. The plant catalogues arrive around the first of January, and I sit down and dream about what my garden could look like. Then, around the end of January, all the discount stores have their houseplants on sale - lovingly grown and painstakingly nurtured by some far away grower in a hothouse. I browse the aisles, carefully picking and choosing; the right plant for that dark corner, or that sunny window near the back door. I match colors and styles to the containers that I will put them in. I look for healthy plants.

And that's what's so tragic, as the next few weeks pass and...the...tiny...things...slowly...and...irrevocably...croak.

I have decided, after looking at my family history, that my problem is hereditary: my Mom had a plastic thumb. She systematically and without mercy killed every house plant she ever had. She even tried silk plants once, but after a while, they, too, began to look peaked and washed out, and she gave them to a neighbor to spare herself the agony of witnessing their demise.

I wonder, every now and then, as I fertilize and water my plants, potted with such loving care, whether they can scream, and we are just too weak - or self-absorbed - to hear their tiny voices. Do they cry when I forget to water them? Are those blooming Peace Lilies rejoicing silently? Is there such a thing as Sod Song?

Shakespeare wrote in Julius Caesar that there are more things in this world than we can dream of, and I think he was right. We often get so busy defending all the things we think we know that we forget to be humble about all the things we don't know. It seems to me that there must be a whole lot more of the latter than the former.

And that's why I pot plants in January, and plant a garden in March - every year. Part of me thinks that it's an exercise in futility, but another part realizes that plants know a great deal more about our world - about living, and yes, about dying - than I will ever know.

Last December, when the seed catalogues arrived, I filled out the order form with every plant I had ever wished to try - and then put it away, like I always do, until I could come to my senses. For Christmas, Banker Bill found my "Wish List" and ordered the whole kit and caboodle. A grand, great gift for a gardener. This week, you will find me, indoors at my kitchen sink, planting seeds, and singing with the snapdragons.

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