Going to Seed
We made what will likely turn out to be the last big harvest of the season at the garden today. My husband and daughter dug two tubs of peanuts and 10 crates of sweet potatoes. (One sweet potato was as large as my daughter’s head! Most were just average size.) I picked a bag full of okra, reaching over my head to pull plants down and clip the pods. Then another bag full of tomatoes, hoping I can put them into a butternut squash and tomato pasta sauce I’ve been planning.
The drought-like conditions of recent weeks have ended the growth on most things. We left a few hot peppers on the plants. We managed to come up with one final bouquet of zinnias.
The garden is going to seed. Looking at the dry field and brown plants made me feel a kind of sadness. But it also evoked gratitude for the work that filled the field this season. For the hands which planted, weeded, watered and harvested. For knowing exactly where some of our food came from. This end of the season like many endings in life is a mix of sorrow and celebration.
One of this week’s scripture texts is Psalm 37:1-9. The first three verses seem to say something to our garden, or rather invite the garden to say something to me: “Do not fret because of the wicked; do not be envious of wrongdoers, for they will soon fade like the grass, and wither like the green herb. Trust in the LORD, and do good; so you will live in the land, and enjoy security.”
The dry brown corn stalks, vines, and formerly green plants tell me to notice that some things over which I worry and wring my hands will soon be dead and gone. May as well see that now.
To be honest, I’m skeptical of the security. And I wonder about the translation at that point. Land is rarely secure. Or then again, maybe it is my distorted view of security that raises my questions about the land. Food and the land on which it grows did provide a kind of security for those living thousands of years ago. Now we are so far removed from the land which feeds us, and from most real food itself, that we who live in the middle classes and above rarely connect food and security. Yet the way that people of any society in 1000 BCE lived, the connection between survival and a food source were inescapable. Growing a large garden this year has reconnected us in a more day-to-day way to the food we eat, to a flood that could destroy it, to the labor, water and attention it takes to tend it, to the cycles and seasons of growth and dying and going to seed and then coming to life again. It helps me know in a deeper way the connection between land and life, water and survival, ordinariness and the profound beauty and gift of life itself.
Maybe the word I need to hear this day is to “live in the land” and “enjoy security.” In other words, enjoy what has come of this closer living with the land and the connection it has offered us to the earth and the creator of all its bounty.
The psalmist goes on to urge worshipers: “Take delight in the LORD, who will give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). The delight and the desire are not security itself, but enjoying what has been given, what is here today, what reveals the profound goodness of the Creator. Those are seeds worth planting over and again.