Sunday Morning ~ New Growth
Usamswere thanga m’licero. ~ Do not break the pumpkin in the basket.
~ Chewa proverb
June 13, 2021
The garden is planted, screens are in, outside bedroom is assembled, and the grass has had it’s first mow. I left patches of wild daisies because they make me happy. There is a six week frenzy of working on this charge into summer, and it’s fun to have it be my full time job. I don’t have to plant a garden. I could still have fresh veggies from the farmers markets filling up around here. There are several of them on the island. But I can’t imagine being here in summer without a garden. My garden is a necessity; if it didn’t exist I would starve––emotionally, anyway. My new summer tenant looked out the bedroom window at my garden. “What do you do with all that food?” she asked, rather surprised at the extent of the enterprise. “I eat it.” I told her, “all year.” I used to feed at least ten people each night when the kids were growing up. We had lots of guests, lots of parties, lots of meals. I’d go out to the garden with a basket and pick supper, one of the most satisfying activities I can think of. As the kids were launched and numbers here dwindled, I kept the same garden footprint, even extending it a little to give the pumpkins more room to roam. There is something so sustaining about opening a jar of something you’ve grown and preserved. The nutrients are only a part of the nourishment. I love every step of the way. I love the shape and size of the seeds and the feel of the potting soil. I love their little white roots dangling down as I transplant them. I love giving each one a word of encouragement as they sink into their new home. I love watching the chickens enjoy their little slug treats. I love going out each morning to see who has bloomed, who has decided to reproduce that day. I love that these plants give so much. I love arranging the vegetables on platters, combining them with other ingredients, experiencing new flavors and textures. I love bringing bouquets inside and placing them on paths I walk when going about my day. So much of my life now is outside of the house. I’m grateful to be able to do this full time without the frenzy of running to work, running to work again, then running to work again. I loved that too at the time but I’m more careful now, more strategic, less impulsive about decisions. I don’t need to have everything done RIGHT NOW! I break fewer pumpkins. I keep my basket cleaner.
Are gardens a lot of work? Sure! Does it seem like work? No! In her interview, Angela Davis said, “Self-care is taking joy in the work you do.” I don’t need yoga or a massage. I need my garden. It is such a joy to be able to spend the time now. I feel like a stay-at-home mom attending to every whim of every plant calling to me. And I love it.
My class is finished and this week I need to do the grades before summer officially begins. This is my least favorite part of teaching. I never thought our grading system was fair or in any way a reflection of what we learned. What a strange system we have of measuring the amount of knowledge someone’s mind has absorbed. We cast a judgement based on a subjective gradient which can make or break someone’s career. It’s a powerful position, really. When I was a student I managed to pass some history courses even though I learned nothing about history only about how to pass the course. As I read now about slavery, about the real history of our country, I feel small and ignorant, indulging myself in self pity for wasted years stumbling along in the dark. I got a solid B in those classes and could tell you almost nothing about the American slavery system except that it existed, they picked cotton, got whipped, and Harriet Tubman was very brave. In the antiracism work I’m doing with my organization I lamented not learning the realities sooner. I wonder what difference it would have made in my career or efforts to care for women. I’m immersing myself in it and the work feels good. I want to open myself up to understanding and see where it brings me. I’m lucky to have this time and happy I’m not being graded. It changes how I approach things when judgment is not looming. I’m reading How The Word Is Passed, a book about the author’s travels around this country learning about the history of slavery from the tour guides who teach it. It’s a beautifully written story, sometimes painful to absorb. It’s compelling. I realize I always felt a little superior coming from the north, imagining myself an abolitionist. But I grew up in a mill town. I had not thought before about the mills contributing to the slave culture. We were all part of it. It was not only slave owners profiting from the evil system. There is so much we must face. But I believe the time is right for the work and even though it’s hard and painful, I’m still finding joy in the fact it is happening. We’re not going back to not knowing and that is good. There is no way forward but forward.
If you break the pumpkin in the basket, it will ruin the basket. Be careful, have patience, take time to get the whole story.
Love to all,