There is a patch of earth that lies fallow all winter. I pass the plain brown dirt on my daily path. Every year I await signs of spring, one of which is the tilling of The Garden. The covering of dull dirt is a disguise for the rich soil beneath. When painstakingly turned, the deeper seed-ready soil is revealed. It has been waiting all winter for this day…as have I.
The man, who lives in the white farmhouse with rockers on the front porch, has white hair and sun-kissed skin. He doesn’t stand as tall as he once did, but his garden is a work of art. Born from years of offering seeds to the earth; sacrificing them to the ground and watching them transform into life-giving, fruit producing plants. He and the earth create a masterpiece each year.
The tilling is only the beginning. Rows as straight as arrows line the once fallow rectangle. The change in color of fresh soil turned is the foundation of this annual ritual. When I first started passing this plot of land 20 years ago, the man was taller, his hair not so white, but the soil was the same beautiful reddish brown then as it is now. The skin of the earth and the man both are tanned by the sun. These two spend hours together each year. They have an unspoken bond. The man lays the seeds down as an offering. The earth receives them with warmth and wraps them up safely to await the rains.
The spring deluge comes then goes and one day, as if by a miracle, there are sprouts. Young green polka dots in a reddish frame background. The man watches over them as if they are his children. Checking them daily. Adding poles to this piece for the beans to climb. Checking for weeds and insects. Tenderly caring for this part of his heart and home.
In the chill of the morning or the cool of the evening, you can catch a glimpse of this love affair unfolding. The man checks in on his precious garden, stooping down to feel growing things and to nurture them to produce fruit. It is a daily ritual; a worship of sorts. He is rarely there in the heat of the day. So, to me it seems as if the garden is growing itself as I ride by it over and over again on my way to life. Yet, my eyes tell me that this patch of ground is well loved and cared for. It is pristine, and gardens are not pristine unless someone is toiling many hours to make them so.
I watch the plants mature into deep green and stand taller than the man who planted them. The corn plays hide and seek with him. The squash tries to create a labyrinth and is only kept at bay by his diligence. The summer progresses the transformation, until the soil is hardly visible beneath the full green of the plants. Only the well-worn striped dirt rows are visible; tamped down by the footsteps of the man in the garden. Up and down the rows watching his handiwork explode with life. Joining himself with the growing artwork; a living breathing painting.
It is a dance they do each year. The white-haired man is not getting younger, but he is not giving his garden up. It brings him too much life for that. It is as much a part of him as the creases around his mouth and eyes when he smiles. One cannot be separated from the other. Joy brings life to his sun-weathered face. To sit and rock on the porch, and watch his garden grow is his joy. To tenderly care for this plot of land…his plot of land…is his great pleasure.
The fall will come. The fruit will be harvested. The garden will grow over, its work completed for the year. The remains of the plants will be removed and the winter will come again, enriching the soil from within. One day the man will no longer be able to participate in this annual event. He is more stooped every year, but even that is part of the cycle. It is the circle of life, demonstrated for all the passersby, like me, to see every year as we await the coming of spring and the creation of The Garden.