Grow This

Title: Grow This Address: http://growthis.blogspot.com Author: Weeping Sore From: El Cajon Blogging since: September 2006 Post Date: May 22, 2007

Post Title: Slave to a Springtime Passion for the Earth ...become like me,

Slave to a Springtime passion for the earth.

How Love burns through the Putting in the Seed

On through the watching for that early birth

When, just as the soil tarnishes with weed,

The sturdy seedling with arched body comes

Shouldering its way and shedding the earth crumbs.

-- Robert Frost, "Putting in the Seed"

Yuppies are starting to retire. We were the first generation after the wars and the Depression to enjoy what previously was only afforded to the very rich -- the "privilege" of not having to worry about starving to death. The postwar prosperity enjoyed by our parents permitted them to indulge us. We're the first generation for a long while to have leisure time left over from the struggle to survive. My generation were spoiled children, fortunate, and yet often discontented with our riches. Many of us not interested in buying yachts or in living behind the walls of gated senior communities are discovering the contentment of gardening.

This week, I am putting in the last of the seeds of Spring. Some tomatoes, planted (impatiently) too early in April, germinated despite the final chills of winter and are now ready to transplant to the garden. And I planted rooted cuttings of mums and geraniums. Most of the sunflowers, directly sowed into chilly ground, failed to awaken. So my final "putting in the seed" will involve planting the last precious sunflower seeds.

Some end-of-Springtime rituals remind me that there is life after a professional career. I survived years of being a slave to "the Man." And now I've got the leisure time to become a slave to a new passion -- putting in seeds in Springtime.

Post Date: February 20, 2007

Post Title: Choosing the Ground In olden days, book titles used to be informative, descriptive, and more flowery than a host of heavenly winged cherubs, tipping baskets of fragrant Valentine's Day flowers over the heads of naked, pink, modestly entwined Rubenesque lovers. In 1855, Kerby & Son, 190 Oxford Street, London, published a book by Mrs. Loudon (author of The Ladies' Companion to the Flower Garden and Gardening for Ladies) with the descriptive title My Own Garden -- The Young Gardener's Yearbook.

Things seem to run on idyllically well at first: "Almost all young people are fond of a garden, and as gardening is a fine healthy exercise, it is desirable to encourage a taste for it as much as possible; consequently there are few persons, I believe, who have a family, who, if they have any quantity of garden ground to themselves, do not set aside a small portion of it for their children."

But soon it takes a darker turn. The author veers down into the exhaustively outlined, "Book I: January, February, and March. Chapter 1: Choosing the Ground and Selecting Implements and Instruments," and her suddenly sinister voice regretfully informs us, "The months of January and February count for very little in a garden. It is expecially [sic] quite impossible for any boy or girl to work in the open air when the ground is hard with frost, as it generally is in the month of January, or covered with snow as it often is in February."

Now, it would be a relatively cheap shot to compare and contrast this with her distractingly exhaustive titles and to conclude her message was an allegory-free fairy tale. But consider: she was intentionally sowing her moral lesson just short of too shallowly to germinate in her readers' collective subconscious minds. Reread the sentence above and see it suddenly blossom into a metaphor of the trials and tribulations of the young gardeners' coming lives as a brief metaphorical season.

It's almost as if those crafty titles are red herrings delicately pitched to fly beneath the radar of Victorian manhood.... In a book entitled rosily enough to deter even the gayest of their male contemporaries, Mrs. Loudon whispers this secret to the little girls -- delivering it like a punch to the gut when they were expecting a gentle kiss: "Philosophers say that there is no pleasure so great as that of conquering difficulties, but then the difficulties should be such as can be conquered without too great a waste of physical strength, or without bringing on that hopeless despondency which is the consequence of a constant struggle against difficulties which are too great to be surmounted."

Be afraid, little girls. Perhaps you can cultivate a garden of sufficient interest to offset the torpor of life. Good luck with that. But, my lovelies, it's a very dark ride. Kappy's detachment might save you from the hopeless despondency. Women in my family, who have inherited or cultivated detachment, seem able to stay on their feet, swaying and bending like young trees in a thunderstorm, but remaining upright. There's nobility in the struggle.

Readers of today may find the parable hauntingly reminiscent of another oxymoronical rule, the one about trying not to dirty your soul with sin, while knowing it's already incurably muddied by the sin committed by the original girl in the original garden. But if Mom and Mrs. Louden didn't tell us, girls know that all gardeners get dirty. It's some rule of the universe about how entropy corrupts everyone and everything. Grown women don't just know about the dirt, we cultivate it.

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