Saturday, October 24, 2009

Lessons From My Potato Patch

My potato patch struggled this year. Each time I’ve taken my shovel out to the garden to dig up a strainer full of potatoes for dinner, I find it necessary to dig up more than the usual amount of plants to fill the strainer. Most of the plants produced fewer and smaller potatoes. Even though I’ve never had a crop quite like this---our country is perfect for potatoes---I imagine our very wet and cool June delayed some growth as well as the more moderate temperatures in July.

As I dug for just a few more the other evening, I also discovered a twist to the summer’s minimalist crop: a rather large red potato with a crease in the middle causing it to conform into a rounded fetal shape. How odd, I thought.

Its uniqueness and the unusual nature of the rest of the crop quickly reminded me of how my gardening life is full of imperfection. In the spring, as I plant my first rows of spinach and lettuce I imagine my returning to the raised bed in a couple of weeks to plant successive rows so we’ll have spinach and lettuce throughout the season. I never returned this summer to the lettuce patch. The yellow beans I planted as companion plants to the potatoes barely germinated. The whole summer’s crop produced enough for three servings one night for dinner.

When I tangled with errant meadow grasses along the western border of my largest garden bed early in June, I thought I’d won. I didn’t. It came back up through the newspaper and mulch barrier. My perfectly placed arctic blue willow bushes have been unfortunately damaged by the dogs running from the back door to the outside; the path the shortest distance from the house to the open spaces. I let the raspberry patch invade what I refer to as my meditation garden and never made time to turn it back. Every time I walked by I felt the peace disturbed.

So, as I pruned, weeded, and made room for spring bulbs yesterday afternoon, I worked at allowing myself room for imperfection both in the unknown of the growth of the potato patch and in my imperfect attention and work in my gardens. I will continue to allow myself to imagine a perfect gardening season and when the air chills and the season slows, I’ll try and fondly remember both the bloom and inherent imperfection in the gardening life. For the minimalist potato patch with its large fetal-shaped exception and my failures in tending to my gardens appear to be an outcome of life naturally living itself out: perhaps hope with its ideals of perfection and the natural anomalies of imperfection are simply not one without the other. I am gratefully reminded, as autumn brings a vibrant gardening season to a close, that life is clearly rich in both its perfection and imperfection.

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