Friday, April 22, 2011

Earthworms, Rouge Carrots, and May Sarton

As a bibliophile, I've picked up the habit of reading several books at once.  Usually, this creates interesting juxtapositions and I naturally synthesize the ideas I'm reading into my life, into my writing.  This week I finished two books: May Sarton's memoir Plant Dreaming Deep and Amy Stewart's The Earth Moved.

In The Earth Moved, Stewart discusses how earthworms intersect with humanity, in nearly always a positive way.  She also imbues them with human-like characteristics when she writes:

“Worms are ruminators; they sift through whatever surround them, turn it over, explore it, move through it.  They are deliberate creatures, in no great hurry, but always in motion, twisting and burrowing, shrinking and contracting, and eating.  They spend their lives in a kind of active meditation, working through the detritus in which they live, the bits of leaves and grass and particles of soil.”

What strikes me most about this image is that worms work incrementally, slowly, getting a little bit done at a time.  Working with what they have--the messy detritus of a life.  As finals and the semester is crashing down around me, I can't get out in the garden for a long day of work. I can't even make my kitchen cupboards as tidy as I like. We suffered a grain moth invasion, when an unopened package of dried figs in the pantry proved to be a nesting ground, which was just another stressful thing to add to my list.  When the pressure of schoolwork builds up at the end of the semester, it feels like everything starts to fray around the edges.  At times like this, I must remind myself to have the patience of an earthworm.

It's been a rough spring so far.  As typical of Northwest Ohio, spring is fickle.  It's cold and wet and gray and it just won't cooperate with our wishes for warm, sunny weather.  4 of the last 5 days have been rainy. The thermometer stalls out at 50 degrees, never higher.  Yet, thinking of moving in small increments like the earthworm, I managed to get sugar snap peas, two kinds of radishes, bok choi, dill, and an assortment of lettuces and spinach in the ground.  Yesterday, after spending the whole afternoon grading research essays, I know that if I could just a small incremental little bit of gardening done, I would feel better.  It made all the difference in the world. 

Rouge Carrots (notice the naughty kitten paw in the upper left-hand corner.)
Because gardening is now deep in my bones like writing and reading, I can relate when Sarton writes in Plant Dreaming Deep, “Making a garden is not a gentle hobby for the elderly, to be picked up and laid down like a game of solitaire.  It is a grand passion.  It seizes a person whole, and once it has done so he will have to accept that his life is going to be radically changed."  Gardening has seized me.  Now that I've gotten my fix--during the one dry day this week--I can stop trembling with anxiety.  I am hooked on vegetable gardening because I never quite know the joys or sorrows I will discover each time I step foot outside.  The garden is a constantly evolving, shape-shifting creature all its own.  

 Yesterday, when I was planting peas, I found these rogue carrots that had escaped harvest last fall.  To my surprise, they were still perfectly fine.  And, just to make sure, our new black and white kitten, Tessie made sure to do a thorough inspection while I shot photos.  Although, she did a better job of playing with the carrot top fronds.

I chopped the carrots, and ate them for dinner in a lovely chicken curry that surprisingly, has pureed pumpkin (made with frozen puree from last year's pie pumpkin harvest!) as a secret ingredient to give the sauce body, richness, and a wonderful mild sweetness.  I found the recipe at Eat the Cookie, a great gluten-free food blog, also based in Northwest Ohio.

So, I will continue to grade essays, read books, and work in the garden as I manage the detritus of my life.  And, hopefully like the earthworm, I can manage it with infinite patience so I can be open to the surprise of carrots in April!

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