It’s an interesting thing. When I was little I always wanted to be a teacher. And when I graduated from high school my intent was to become a high school English teacher – a la Dead Poets Society, of course (yes I still cry like a baby during the O Captain, My Captain scene at the end). But things happen and life happens and you do other things. Roadblocks and finances change the world don’t they? Suddenly your chance to go to a private college gets ripped away by your parents and you find yourself going to a public institution and working full time at the age of 17. It takes you 15 years to get your degree but by then you are sick and tired of school. You lose your job in 2009 and think, maybe now’s the time, get my graduate degree, see what I can do. Then you realize you can’t pay your mortgage on a teacher’s salary all by yourself, now can you. So you go back to your world, dismiss all that as something you obviously weren’t meant to do, or, even worse, tell yourself you wouldn’t have been any good at anyhow because hey, you are one of those people who knows a little about a lot, not a lot about a little.
I don’t discuss books on end. I know what moves me. I couldn’t sit in a ‘reading group’ and talk about the facets of Eat, Pray, Love. But I could tell you of how my heart sunk when she was lying on her bathroom floor, sobbing hysterically at the realization that her marriage was over. I remember that moment in my own life. Or I could tell you about how her travels to Italy, India, and Indonesia are journeys that, while I haven’t mimicked them to a science, reminded me of my own evolution as I went from girl to woman to Woman.
And you guys know I love my little garden. But really? Last year I had a Driveway Garden. Before that? A pot of basil and a topsy-turvy tomato planter that, pardon my french, Sucked Ass. And before that? Mister Lincolns (my dad’s rose). No idea in hell what I was doing. Did I take classes? Study books on gardening to get the exact science? Nope.
Last year I was afraid of seeds. I bought starts for everything, boom, in the ground. Then I watered them almost to death. So much so that my tomatoes paid the price. Then it was 108 degrees and my bell peppers got sunburnt, my spinach bolted at rocket-speed, and the basil wimped out.
So I said hell with it and at the end of the season I threw the rosemary and the lavender and chives into the ground and said, you guys fend for yourself. Live, die, I don’t care. My father died the year prior and I planted a row of blueberries in his name. (Did he like blueberries? Not a clue. But there was something very life-giving in planting something all-too-similar to a Charlie Brown Xmas tree and seeing it bear fruit the next year). I jammed some cucumber into the ground and watched it take off and climb my fence in disbelief. I left it alone and it flourished. Hmm. Nope, no symbolism there!
Then the stars aligned and I finally got a job and could live roommate-free, pay my bills, return to the life I had been leading. Or maybe not. I had two evil weed trees taken down, and both metaphorically and truly, the light came in. I could see that I was pretty damn lucky. Light was everywhere, possibility was endless. I started hauling cinderblocks from everywhere on the property and building raised beds, something my mom had done successfully. However I didn’t want mine to look like hers, with gravel paths and such. I needed something uniquely me…whatever that was. I knew I needed to have a layer to kill grass underneath, so my neighbor gave me two bins full of maple leaves to rot nicely over the winter in there. I geeked out and made a binder to plan things. I played around with a million different ideas during the fairly mild winter and pulled together scrap wood that had been next to the garage for years and started thinking about what a ‘real’ garden might look like. That’s what’s spectacular about having your own plot of land – you can make a huge mess and watch it and get ideas without anyone telling you to clean it up. So I worked on it.
I bought a book called The Kitchen Garden that has pretty much replaced everything else. It has pictures. It has order. It has a timeline. But it’s not bitchy and snobby. It’s got pictures. Just as I would like it – actual visuals and things little old ‘unskilled labor’ EcoGrrl might be able to figure out. The snow came in and I dreamed.
And while I dreamed, I started whole-heartedly on my truffle business. And in my job, I found a way to do the things I love and get paid for it – kind of. I volunteered at the local elementary schools to get the kids excited about science, partnering with a coworker with equal enthusiasm. We built marshmallow towers and NASA-inspired thingamajigs and I brought the “hey I don’t know much about it but it’s fun” aspect to the technical side that my colleagues added.
The sun peeked out in February and I ziptruck’d in some dirt. Oops – SOIL. I dug a path and from that sod I dumped it into a section of the yard later to be renamed ‘Tomato Heaven’. I had wisely kept some branches from a holly tree we’d knocked down in the fall (ok not wisely, i didn’t have a saw to cut them into smaller pieces so i figured i’d deal with it later), and used them to build a green bean trellis based on an idea presented in urban farm magazine.
I got my tax refund in March and spent a chunk of it on non-garden but altogether second greatest thing I’ve done to my house: the deck out front. Then i went back to the garden and planted everything i wanted to plant – by (gasp!) seed. A leap of faith following some ideas in the book and nothing of any great technique. Ya put the seeds in, ya water ’em, ya hope they grow.
Uhhh…and they did. Things grew! Hot damn. Now I admit, tomatoes and peppers did get planted in starts, as i wasn’t ready to do everything, but hte carrots, onions, lettuce, spinach, corn, peas, beans, and nasturtium all were from packets. Wow. I did this? May came around and they continued to grow – and the lovely greens saved my life.
And I have eaten, and I have fallen in love, and I have been blessed. All from planting things and watching them grow and giving them the patience and good energy they needed to grow.
So it’s harvest season. When I was a kid I remember helping my mom in the hot summers as she canned, canned, canned. So why couldn’t I learn? She didn’t have time it seemed to ever show me anything so I figured it out myself. Read the instructions on the little packet of pectin. Made my own guesses. Screwed up a lot but made even more. Learned.
So now they ask me to teach?
And I giggle. But hey, maybe that’s the road I’ve been following unknowingly?
Hmm. Que Sera, Sera.
Fall will be over soon and I’ll be headed across oceans and on trains going into the Scottish countryside. I’ll be meandering easily on beaches with a friend and letting life figure itself out once again. But in the meantime?
Maybe I shall teach.