I have never considered myself to be a particularly nurturing person. Service-oriented, sure. Sympathetic, okay. But not nurturing. Until I had children, every living thing ever entrusted to my care ended up dead from neglect: an orchid, a goldfish named Herman, a spider plant--spider plants are practically impossible to kill, but I managed it.
Children are different. As babies, they cry like the dickens when they need something, and as 3- and 7-year-olds, they whine and complain. Actually I suppose any animal other than a fish would let me know if it wanted something (poor Herman).
It's really a plant thing. I know that plants "tell" their caretakers by wilting, or turning yellow or black, that present conditions are not to their liking. I just haven't ever been able to care very much.
So it was a minor miracle that last year I bought four tomato starts (one Amish Paste, two Sun Golds, one Black Krim) and raised them into tomato-producing plants. And another minor miracle that I began to covet the empty lot across the street for its abundant space and sunlight, and yet another one that I got up the nerve to ask the guy who manages it how he would feel about, say, an unexpected volunteer tomato among the clover. And yet another when he replied, grow whatever you want as long as its legal and noninvasive.
C, my co-consipirator and gardening guru (she's got her own huge veggie garden), started some stakeless tomato plants for me from seed. K, my pregnant Sith friend, lent me her weed-whacker, rototiller, and 50 (or was it 100?)-foot extension cord. I let TZ do some weed-whacking, and he went to town.
Then it became clear that the hill was too steep to hold all the new soil, so I dug a little terrace--which needed something to brace it, so I brought over some old bricks we had lying around. And I thought I may as well grow some sunflowers along the fence, and put a couple of tomatoes in containers in the sun on the hill.
And I thought, wouldn't it be nice to have a pumpkin or two growing here? And we should have some marigolds for the tomatoes. (The tomatoes look a little sad in the picture, but they're actually doing all right.)
And what started out as a vision for a couple of guerrilla tomato vines growing among the weeds has turned into a pretty big, rather messy (I like to think it's charming), very obvious Project.
Not exactly the picture I originally painted for the property manager. I'm hoping he'll still be okay with what it's become, and that the deer and bunny rabbits will allow the plants to make something for us to eat and share--both of which will be miracles of slightly greater magnitude than what we've had so far.
It looks a little like Man vs. Nature over there, like establishment vs. anarchy, especially with the marigolds and the bricks--one big stomp of a civilized footprint in the weedy wilderness. Kind of ironic, considering the whole endeavor was conceived as sort of covert and subversive political act--a way to re-value land whose owner sees its value only in real estate dollars, to knit ourselves a little closer into the Nature end of the food chain, and to reduce another kind of footprint.
I can't let go of the irony when I'm here writing in my house, but when I'm out there in the garden (it is a bona fide garden now), I fall completely under its spell (the garden's, that is). It is like magic--that from tiny seeds like the ones my friend planted weeks ago, and from dirt, and water, and sunlight, grow stems, leaves, flowers, and lovely, delicious fruit. To grow vegetables, or fruit, or flowers, or what have you, is to watch a miracle reveal itself. Miracles. Sunlight, air, water, soil, fruit--miracles all. Wish us luck.