|Last summer's garden mid-June|
You will find, now that it is the season, that I write about gardening a lot. I wrote about it a lot last year—my seeds, my soil, the inspiring mycorrhizal fungi building relationships in the earth. This has inspired some of my readers at various times to exclaim with admiration, "I garden too, but not so masterfully as you!"
Were any of these readers to visit my home they would find a woman whose counter is covered with bowls of soil and testing equipment, the maps of carefully planned garden beds, their crops all rotated from years before. Gardening books and notes are heaped upon the table. Ah, yes, they'd think, she really knows her stuff. But then, at length, they might notice that I have grass growing into my perennial beds and that my catmint is wilting, desperately in need of division and re-planting, which I keep putting off. They might notice that my Russian sage has spread its suckers and is taking over the world of soil within its grasp: an empire of unwanted xeric plant.
In the backyard run chickens, next to pieces of sodden cardboard I once thought I'd use for sheet mulching, and are digging themselves dust baths in what once long ago was turf; there is another garden bed next to dog poo, an abandoned light-saber and one single dessicated unmatched child-sized sock. The home of a master gardener is probably not the description that would come to mind. The usual comment is something like, "And this is legal here?" with a nod to the chickens and ducks.
Yet they would sense that my yard has the potential to be wonderful. And that is what I'm masterful at: potentiality.
I took a course some long years back—a seminar of sorts—in which we were asked to write down all the commitments that we had, everything small and large that we had a vested interest in bringing forth into the world. My list was longest, and so I won. After having done all this and stewed on it a bit, seen the commitments we had, which we hadn't acted on yet, and gotten all inspired by the largesse of our hearts, the seminar leader then informed us that we could easily winnow down our lists by considering them thus: the only things we were actually committed to were the ones we were acting on.
I find I often think of this. "You don't have a commitment, Tara," I hear the seminar leader say. "You have a fantasy."
If anyone is insulted on my behalf, they needn't be. I have, in the twelve intervening years, failed to bring one single thing into being from that list that I was not already acting upon then. I have not built a geodeosic dome or started raising dairy goats or become the leader of a seminar myself. And I have come to accept this commitment/action business as the gospel truth.
My life has long run like that list that I made when I was twenty-five. Become a writer. Get a career. Save humanity. Run a half-marathon. The noise and distraction of interests, like commercial breaks, which run across the screen that is my brain. What, I have been asking myself lately, is the program? What is the purpose? What is the desire? What unity is the rest of it all there to serve?
The answer, of course, is found where my hands are already dirty, in the evidence on the ground. It seems I want to be a student. No matter what I am trying to do, I surround myself with books. I experiment, my face streaked with soil as I mix test units to find and record the level of phosphorus, nitrogen, potash. I like to teach only because I'm learning as I go. In the yard, full of chickens with mysterious ailments and psychological quirks, seed beds ready for planting, years of experiments to try, I find my purpose, something worthy of my life.
Conversely, the pretty, kept-up house and yard I dream of will probably always remain a fantasy, as I walk by the sock yet one more time on my way to pick up a chicken in my arms.