Your Hands in the Soil: Tending the Garden of a Nation

Your Hands in the Soil: Tending the Garden of a Nation “With my knees in the dirt and my hands busy, I find that gardening and activism are blood relatives,” writes William Rivers Pitt. (Photo: Pixabay)

On my kitchen counter lies treasure: 17 perfect cucumbers, three zucchinis including one large enough to double as a war club, one green pepper, one sweet onion and the long scallions from the onion which I can smell two rooms away that look like a green cat-‘o-nine-tails. This is only the first reaping; to follow are strawberries, three different kinds of potatoes, cilantro, parsley, more onions, more peppers, more cucumbers, more zucchinis, two different kinds of lettuce, snow peas, beans and — Fates be kind — 10 million tomatoes springing from 18 different plants. I tried for garlic, but the warm winter foiled me. So it goes.

I spent the day with this small harvest and its mother garden in a cool misting rain. Water ran lightly off the brim of my Farmer Will hat and dripped on my hands as I pulled the day’s yield. I dig the hat; when the sun is out, my shadow on the ground looks like Indiana Jones. At one point, a young porcupine trundled by, maybe as big as my shoe. We both paused and eyeballed each other, the porcupine in an abundance of caution and me in a smiling heartbeat of bliss, because who gets to see a damn baby porcupine? We concluded our mutual examination and went about our business. I laid in the pea trellises, staked a few tomato plants and called it a good day.

Serious gardening is meditation. It is a long pause in the cupped hand of life itself. There is a good deal of work involved in creating something from nothing, in taking a blank space and painting it green and red. I put my hands in the dirt and smell the soil between my knuckles, I feel the sun on my neck, I shoo away the early summer flies and plant at pace, seed here and seedling there. I watch the weather like a meteorologist to know when to water and when to let it ride because a soft rain beats the sprinkler any day. I watch the leaves for…

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