Monday, May 22, 2017

Buying Bewilderness

"Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment."

Saturday dawned warm and sunny. Demo Day was finally here!. For weeks I had been waiting for the rains to stop, the ground to dry out, and the threats of everything from hail to heat waves to pass so that I could begin my quest to turn my daughter's badly neglected yard into a garden paradise. My daughter inherited this disaster when she moved in and I had always wanted to tackle it. Now that I was living closer and in a place with no garden of my own to tend to, this seemed like the perfect time.

I armed my two grandchildren with the tools of the trade and explained that, while Rome certainly wasn't built in a day, neither was a garden. It was going to take a lot of hard work and, of course, my accumulated knowledge from years of gardening (and gardening shows on TV) to turn this yard around. The first order of business was to tear it all out with the exception of some bushes, some small as-yet-unidentifiable trees, and anything that looked like an actual flower. Gloves on, digging tools in hand, we set to the task. I was all about the work, all about the vision, until ....

"Grandma! Come see!"

My 7 year old grandson, who thought worms and bugs were the most extraordinary things ever created, had unearthed the Mother Lode! Hundreds of bugs of all different sizes and species were busy going about their lives, having been hidden until now by the weeds. It did not take long for me to abandon my Puritan work ethic and just watch the little critters at work. Eventually, since old habits die hard, my ego reminded me that at this rate, not only would Rome not be built in a day, it wouldn't be built in a month! Reluctantly my grandson went back to work, although with not as much enthusiasm as he had while watching the bugs. After some more pulling and digging, another voice reached me from the other side of the yard:

"Grandma! What's this?"

My 10 year old granddaughter, sister to the bug enthusiast, was pointing to some small green objects on the ground. When we first started pulling things up, we discovered that the two garden beds, and many of the cracks in the pavement around the back steps, were covered in wild leeks. Since the ground water in the area where my daughter lives was adversely affected by the two floods that occurred here back in 2006 and 2011, mostly due to contamination from old commercial dry cleaning plants in the area, I knew that we should not be eating anything that had been growing in that ground. What a shame! In any case, in addition to the leeks, my granddaughter (who has visions of growing up to become the next Rachel Ray), had discovered that someone had been growing peas. They were scattered all over the ground underneath the foliage that, having no where to climb, had just covered any open ground it could find.

I stood back up for a moment and looked around the yard in awe. Someone, years ago, had planted a garden here. It was hard to tell because the majority of the yard had been planted over with grass, with a portion poured in concrete for a patio, and the whole thing overhung with trees. Yes, someone had done the back-breaking work that we were now doing to put in a garden that would feed their family, but that wasn't what amazed me. What amazed me was that, regardless of what humans had done to this land, nature had just kept doing what it does best. The insects continued to go about their business as they and all of their ancestors before them had done, and the plants had somehow found a way to continue despite all of mankind's attempts. When the roots of a leek are so strong that the plant can push its way up through a crack in the concrete, who are we to think we are smarter than that plant?

On Saturday, I sold my cleverness and purchased bewilderment. I forgot everything I thought I knew about growing a garden and, instead, marveled at the work of the Master Gardener and her army of insect helpers. I bowed in awe to Her genius and promised myself that, going forward, I would stop being a drill Sargent towards my little helpers - the bug specialist and the cook - and start being a grandma: keeper of the wisdom, teacher, and helper. Together we would not "build" a garden, we would "grow" a garden, and in that time together, we would grow up together as well.

May all your gardens in life be filled with wonder.

And so it is.

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