Some may sport the title of Master Gardener, he said, but he finds something special about those who have a deep passion for growing things.
I appreciated his observation, because so often, others’ expertise can be humbling. Most of the time, Kevin and I feel as if we’re fumbling around in the dark.
I’m sure we’re accumulating knowledge, but each year I wonder if we’re re-learning the same lessons. We have so many “Oh, yeah. Didn’t we do it this way?” moments.
The fact is, the plants know what to do. They don’t need us. They need sunlight, water and a vast array of chemical and biological agents — trace minerals, bacteria, invertebrates, fungi, insects, pheromones — that interact in ways even the experts don’t fully understand.
The longer we garden, I realize that our role is simply to shepherd the process. And, often, when we try to tweak things, we run the risk of making matters worse.
It’s that very lack of control that I find so enticing. It feels good to let go.
Kevin and I usually aren’t good at letting go. We’re not exactly control freaks; we’re just decidedly freakish about trying to control outcomes. As Kevin frequently says: He knows things can’t be perfect, but there’s nothing wrong with striving for perfection.
But, in the garden, however hard we try, what we do ultimately may not matter.
We may plant at the right time, water the proper amount, weed away competition, feed the appropriate nutrients and yet still lose the crop to a fungal disease or a four-legged critter. Or, we may neglect a plant for a variety of reasons and still harvest a delicious, abundant crop.
But despite these uncertainties, it’s so satisfying to be along for the ride.
Life unfolds in the garden: It sparks, it flourishes, it creates the next generation. Then it ends.
But even in dying, life continues. All the nutrients and matter bound up in plants fuel what comes after. That vast array of chemical and biological agents keeps the process humming along.
Our job is simply to observe with hearts full of wonder.