The Garden: An Exercise in Wild Hope

According to the seed packet from which I got my "Sparkler" radishes, they'd be good to go -- go in my mouth -- by May 31, 25 days after I'd planted them.  

By the looks of things, they needed another 25 days.

"For crispy, sweet radishes, harvest before roots are one inch in diameter."  Guess I got THAT right, at least.

"For crispy, sweet radishes, harvest before roots are one inch in diameter."  Guess I got THAT right, at least.

What happened?  I only got one radish that looked anything like the fat little white and red globes pictured on the seed packet.  Perhaps I didn't thin them well enough.  The plants seemed a little leggy, their stems doing crazy 90-degree turns to get to the sunlight.  Perhaps I didn't get them in the soil early enough.  "We're already eating radishes!" my neighbor had cheerfully reported, days after I had put mine in the ground.  

I was still smarting from the effort, my thighs stiff from squatting, my lower back sore from leaning over, my eyebrows still sewn together from squinting at the teeny, tiny seeds as I dropped them into the little furrow I'd made with my pinky finger.   

After planting radishes, and carrots, I'm a perfect candidate for a job repairing watches or decorating the head of a pin.

The yield-to-effort ratio with my radishes is non-quantifiable, it's so off the charts in negative territory.  But I consider even those paltry little roots a victory over the forest of weeds I started out with in late April:  

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See what I mean?  I'm feeling very triumphant with one radish.  Oh, and one cherry tomato.

I've been uncharacteristically chill about my garden.  Me, who is a card-carrying member of what my former radio colleague, Bob Hennelly, used to call The League of Those Who Care Too Much.  I'm Type A, for certain, born and bred, but gardening has me downshifting to a Type B, for beginner.

I see that half of my heirloom Hokkaido squash seeds didn't germinate (that's the down side of heirloom varieties).  I see that what's vigorously growing instead are the weeds around the beds, weeds that I can't seem to gin up enough animosity against to spend a day pulling them out.

In my garden, there are big bare patches where seeds just didn't show up for work.  But I've got a bumper crop of weeds!

In my garden, there are big bare patches where seeds just didn't show up for work.  But I've got a bumper crop of weeds!

Eh, I think, at least they're on the non-garden side of the raised bed.

I see that a rabbit has eaten my corn, nibbling the floppy leaves down to the stalk so that it looks like a green cigar stubbed out in the soil.  I could have put up some netting or some chicken wire fencing but I didn't.  I figured, with any garden, there's bunny tax. And a squirrel tax.  They dug up the marigolds I had planted around the perimeter to ward off....well, squirrels.  Or so I thought.  

What do I know from all this?  I'm a beginner.  

It's very freeing.

Natalie Goldberg writes about beginner's mind in Writing Down the Bones.  

When I teach a beginning class, it is good.  I have to come back to beginner's mind, the first way I thought and felt about writing.  In a sense, that beginner's mind is what we must come back to every time we sit down and write. [...] Each time is a new journey with no maps.

Now, in writing, beginner's mind terrifies me.  I have expectations.  I've been writing for a long time.  I should know what I'm doing.  It should be easier, more brilliant, more polished, more marketable.  Such internal demands are big stumbling blocks to beginning, to facing the blank page or screen.  

I have no such blocks when it comes to gardening.  I don't have any expectations.  Maybe I'll develop them as I become more seasoned, more field-tested.  Right now, it's all a grand experiment.  Let's just put this in the ground and see what happens. It's an exercise in wild hope.  It's a lot of fun.