Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Drive to Thrive

 I have been waiting to write this blog.
It has risen in me many times, but never found it's way out.
In some ways, I have had a terrible summer.  Namely, I am not busy DOING something that I am gifted to do, which is what helps me feel useful and often makes me more outgoing and generous.
Instead, I have been at home, focusing on me... and a few other things connected to me like my family, our voice over work, our meals, my life memory book... and my garden.
Since I didn't have another outside project, and my husband and sons were very often gone on the weekends to participate in the Passion Play, I would find reasons to go out and tend my garden.
Our backyard garden was initiated last year and this year I began early by growing tomatoes and watermelon (and a few other plants) from seed in April.  My window sills were bursting with new life as the green leafy plants grew up the glass, longing to be planted in the still too cold ground so their roots could go deep.
Finally around late May, many of them were planted and other seeds were added nearby and we watched with delight as they raised their tender heads to the sky.
Rosebud is a mix of sun and rain in June and that weather quickly prompted more growth and glee.
I'd go out every day, usually twice, to clobber any tiny weed that dared take up residence in my composted, tilled, beloved plot.  They didn't stand a chance under my vigilance.
I hardly had to water, thanks to the frequent rain and morning sunshine.
The plot of spinach was burgeoning so, that I drafted the boys to revisit their Snider Spinach
delivery service.  They'd pick and pluck, and I'd wash; then they'd spin dry and bag and go deliver fresh spinach around the town on a miniature jeep go-kart, bicycle thingy.  Too cute = guaranteed sales.  They would return home rosy cheeked and breathless and recount the lucky buyers they found and drop their money into our family vacation fund.  So proud.
This happened three times.
On the morning of July 6 I looked out and admired my jungle of a garden.  Lush greens and monstrous growth.  Perhaps 45 sunflowers (Dave loves them) and HUGE yellow zukes with 6 tiny squash already forming beneath a canopy of dark green vegetation.  The soil was dark and tilled all around without a weed in sight.  As we sat at the table dreaming of what we'd do on vacation, we thought of selling more vegetables: zukes and cukes and tomatoes!!   We even thought we might rent a cart right there by the theatre!  (Back to my roots at my brother's Dave's Garden when I was a girl.) -- With all the extra income and goodwill; we'd be unstoppable once we hit Oregon to do whatever our little hearts desired.
Accumulation of hail on my deck.
     Later that afternoon, as I was alone in the house, whittling away my time at a video game (I'm ashamed to admit, but which  I was determined to defeat), when the power went out and I knew we were in for it.  It was so dark out, I ran to the kitchen to see the approaching weather and was struck by the sound of hail rattling off the windows.  I looked to the garden: hail was pelting it and the grass around, bouncing a foot in the air and landing again.  "Oh no" I breathed.  The very garden I had been praising that morning was under a deluge of marble sized ice.  It got worse before it ended.  At one point there was so much heavy hail I wondered if our roof would hold.  Water started trickling down our furnace and vents and it was thunderous.
 It pounded and pounded for at least 12 minutes.  The highway was white, and a stream came rushing down the hill and settled into a small white lake in both my back and front yards.  I was praying this wasn't hitting my family at the Passion Play.
There was nothing I could do.
After the devastation stopped, I carefully walked out over my icy deck to inspect the damage in the now bright hot sunshine, and simply stared for about 20 minutes.  I couldn't believe that almost every leaf had been shredded, and all that was left was stems in ice.
This photo from the air was taken by Captain Daryl Frank north of Calgary who was flying a jet over part of southern Alberta after the hail.  As you can see, it is a very NARROW strip of ice.  --WHY?  That is not comforting - well, except when you think of all the farmers and all the fields that are now shockingly stunning with canola two weeks later... But what is NOT comforting, is that is looks so exclusive.  Why would God single out this narrow strip of land to get pelted, and why would my garden be right in it's path?  That just feels rude.  [Here is a webpage where you can also see related videos of the storm over in Airdree:].
For the next few days,  I could not help sensing the metaphor all around me.  The pruning, the casting off, the invitation to focus on the roots going deeper and stronger, the hope for new growth...
I felt like God singled out gardens like mine to bring about change deep down, and to wait,
and trust.
I collected about 20 pounds of mulch from around the remaining stems, which I'm sure my compost loved.
And waited.
After a while it became clear that some things were done for:
I lost all my 6 canteloupe, 8 of my 10 watermelons, all my okra and eggplant, and all of my cucumbers.  The tomatoes lost all their leaves but still had their stems, as did the squash, carrots, spinach, herbs, beets, peas and sunflowers.  But most of the lovely sunflowers had snapped in half and were dangling by a thread.  Alas.  I cut them off and brought them all inside like a big grandma hug and watered them and spoke lovingly.  Hoping somehow they would open their colorful heads that were so tight with promise and bloom inside.
Gradually they all died and left me with moldy, stinky water.
 But then...
Something wonderful began to happen, as you can probably imagine.

New growth began to show.

These plants weren't done.

Yes, they had lost their glory, their big, rich first leaves...
but new little ones were coming, and coming fast.

Today, two weeks later,  there are leaves popping out of the broken sunflower stalks - one even right out of the top!! - and they are forming new heads.

Some have hilarious shapes and journeys from ground to head.  Some curve like sink pipes - going down and over and then back up toward the sun.
Many bear several scars from the hail, but they keep leafing out into new growth and new heads.  One plant, although it will never be as tall as it could have been, now has 11 flowers forming on it!
But that's not all!  There are other surprises too.
Yesterday I saw a beautiful spider I have never encountered before: a goldenrod crab spider.  Of course I thought it was poisonous, but I was so curious, I called out the family and my neighbor to inspect it's glory.
My neighbor thought we should kill it, but something in me didn't think that was right until it had a fair trial.
Later Donovan looked it up on the internet and informed us that the crab spider is actually very helpful to gardens!!  It eats aphids and unwanted bugs and it's venom is not harmful to humans.  Yay!  I now had a helper in my garden!
And another thing!
Eggplant among beets (missing a few leaves from me and hail)
I had been mourning the loss of my eggplants that I had grown from seed.  They were so slow to get going and they were all decimated.  But then, as I was inspecting my overcrowded beets, (I mean who has the back endurance to really plant them far enough apart?  I just drizzle them in and stand back up) - anyway, there was one beet that had leaves that were slightly darker and tougher.  I remember picking a few of these leaves off earlier when we added beet greens to our Snider Spinach mix, and finding them odd.  And now it struck me -- that's NOT A BEET!  It's a -- holy cow -- it's a volunteer eggplant from last year!  Hallelujah!
I know I didn't deserve it,
but I wanted an eggplant so bad,
and here was one growing incognito in my beet patch the whole time,
and it survived the storm!
Well, at least part of it did.
It'll come back; I just know it will.  Perhaps when we return from vacation, it'll have that lovely dark purple flower that points down like a dew drop.
Praise the Lord
I'm sorry I every doubted you God,
Now I get why you rejoice for one lost out of a hundred that is found
(and notice how fast I can change my tune... from cursing to praise)

One of my red beans was spared a bulk of the ice war in the shade of a large tomato, and now it has a bloom.
Many of my plants would have been blooming and bearing fruit by now, but hey -- they'll just be late.  Maybe that's good?  Maybe they will continue to bloom in anticipation for my glorious return in 15 days as the master weeder, now that the Master Gardner has pruned them for later growth.

Why does God do that?

I was imagining, as I often do, while gathering the dead leaves, that I was one of the new tiny little leaves who had dwelt in the shade of the elders.  I imagined a story where the young ones had to rise to the occasion to save the plant, now that all the mature ones had been cut off.  I imagined that they would have to team together, to expand and reach out to the sun and rain, to not wait for the roots to send energy, but to go collect it for themselves for the first time for the salvation of the whole organism.  They had to do what they had never done before, but trust that they had all the means and makeup and instincts right inside them.  For the sake of their survival, for the sake of the plant, in honor of those who had gone before, and for the sheer bliss of living.
This is the stump of the tree that went down in the storm last fall.
Others may have written them off,
but even a stump may sometimes sprout a shoot, years later.
...Which of course made me think of Jesus.
Even in the darkest time of slavery and oppression, God's Chosen were given hope from a promise:
A shoot will rise from the stump of Jesse...

I don't like it when people just insert scripture because it often feels preachy and even lazy somehow.  But in this case, I want to share the poetry of this ancient prophet Isaiah:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord 
 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
    or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
    with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.

Thank you Lord for the metaphor.
I am like the plants in the garden.
My garden today, 2 weeks post storm.  New growth.
I have been hailed on, partly by me, partly by You, and now I am aching to discover new growth through a desire to not just live in the shade of those who are taking the heat, but to reach for the sun and drink in the water of life
and to live fully.

I want to thrive,  but I am scared.

Help me have eyes to see what You are doing in my life.
And thank you for the chance to grow again.


Charlie Snider said...

Jeany, You absolutely amaze me with your writing. This blog in particular is filled with passion and insight. You do know how to take us along with you so vividly.

Jeany Meltebeke Snider said...

Thanks Charlie.
I should post a new pic.
The garden is a veritable jungle now!