Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Spring (the season) (07/23/09)
TITLE: Come Spring
By Jackie Wilson
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Even though most of the work took place in the springtime, he was thinking and planning and preparing all through the year. He would come in from working his day job, and start right in on his evening labors.
In the late winter, he got the ground plowed up, ready to receive the seeds or plants. Then, in March and April, the planting began. He had one garden area with nothing but corn, and usually a special plot for tomatoes, just beyond the drain lines for the septic tank. (He really did grow the best tomatoes in that spot!) In the main garden, over the course of all those years, he tried growing everything imaginable, but always there was cabbage, onions, okra, squash, zucchini, potatoes, green beans, peas, watermelon, cantaloupe, and yet another patch of corn.
Between planting and harvesting, there was a lot of physical toiling and laboring. He had a push plow he used to throw dirt up on the potatoes. I can see him moving down the row with that plow: push and pause, push and pause. And of course, there was weeding to be done and spraying for bugs of various kinds. When we weren’t getting enough rain, he would set up his sprinklers and soaker hoses, hoping all the while that the well would hold out.
And then there were the deer and the rabbits to contend with. He tried out lots of weird methods to keep the pests away, including a couple of years when the grandbabies’ dirty diapers were saved and hung up all over the garden! (This didn’t work, by the way!) Finally, he put up an electric fence. It helped, but somehow those deer still got in and ate their fill from time to time.
Mornings, he would ask me, “Did you see the corn? I believe every one of those kernels sprouted.” Or “Those shoots grew at least an inch overnight. Did you notice that?” He would wait anxiously for weeks for the corn to tassel. Many evenings in April or May, he would take a chair out to the edge of the garden and just sit there and watch it grow. He never wearied of watching the story unfold.
Beginning in late spring, one by one the different vegetables would begin to come in. There was always so much! Way, way more than we could possibly use. But he loved the giving away just as much as he loved the growing. So he gave and gave and gave, to many, many people over the course of those thirty years.
For the last ten or twelve years, as the growing season ended, he would usually say, “I don’t think I’m going to have this big a garden next year. It’s way more than we need.”
I’d always say, ”You’re right. I think that’s what you should do. Just cut the garden plots in half.”
But, except for that last year or two, come spring he was at it again, planting that huge garden, tending it carefully, watching with wonder and delight as the miracle of new growth appeared once more. As his health began to deteriorate I think he viewed having that garden as a sign that things were still normal, that things couldn’t be too bad if he was still able to work the garden. When the spring finally came that he simply did not have the strength to work his garden, it was a great sadness for him. A part of him began to accept that that season of his life would never be the same again.
Larry passed away just after the Christmas following that spring. It was very appropriate that these words were inscribed on his marker: With a gardener’s care, he nurtured his family, cultivated his friends, and shared life’s harvests with generosity.
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