Having monitored the ground temperature for the past three weeks and having now determined that it is warm enough to plant, our weekend wonder emerges like a tool-encrusted butterfly from his house cocoon. Each carefully oiled implement glistens in the late May sun. Seed packets bloom from multipocketed overalls, and an air of sublime contentment pervades.
There is something soothing about raking and leveling the earth; to see little clods of dirt break beneath the gently nudging tines, that leave behind only miniature furrows in flowered patterns. Back and forth. Forth and back. Not quite level yet. Just a tad more on that side. Ah, this is a bit of exercise, isn't it, after that long hibernation. A handkerchief, here, to wipe the perspiration off the brow.
Time out for an iced tea. Naturally, there's no need to hurry in this long-awaited pleasure, for a large part of the joy comes from leaning on the shovel, the making ofmeasure strings, and contemplation of row length. Here, too, is the time for noble, philosophical cogitations, (too grand for utterance, mind you)--visions of the Great Provider, the savior of the family, the when-all-else-fails-at-least-we'll-eat fantasies. (Whoever starved on lettuce and radishes?!) However, it is this last segment of pleasant ruminating that arouses the True Garden to the task at hand and sets him double-timing for the hoe and seed packets.
Tenderly, he puts these babies to bed, covering them with a blanket of warm earth, and then begins the wait.
But, a watched seed never sprouts. And everything else does. Until a carpet of green covers the entire garden, but no pattern can be discerned as the True Gardener vascillates between To Weed or Not To Weed.
"The carrots are up! So are the radishes! So's the squash! Oh, boy, oh, boy. are we gonna eat!"
Now, daily, the True Gardener leaves his day job and whistles his way home through the commuter menagerie with one thought buoyant on his frazzled mind: checking his garden. What a peaceful retreat from the workaday hustle bustle, where tranquility and serenity blend in a harmonious equilibrium between man and Nature! The mere thought of life itself, springing from one minute kernel, into vernal profusion and fruition is enough to humble even the most jaded soul. Yes, a balanced ecological system is certainly the answer to man's problems; organic symbiosis of living, growing--
"GAWD MARGE! GET THE RAID! MY TOMATOES--THE FLEA BEETLES ARE--OH, N-O!!! LOOKIT THE CABBAGES! WHERE'S THE PHENOLENDAHYDROCOXINAN? QUICK!!!
"But dear, you'll kill the ladybugs and praying mantises you ordered from "The Organic Gardener..."
TO HELL WITH THE LADYBUGS AND PRAYING MANTISES! KILL THE LITTLE BUGGERS! KILL EVERYTHING!!!
Colorado potato beetles, Japanese beetles, Squashvine borers, spotted and striped cucumber beetles --all flee for their lives as a gigantic cloud envelopes the yard in a garden-style Armageddon. What can't fly away, makes a valiant attempt to crawl only to be met by a flat foot that seems to have quadrupled in size in the last half hour. Nothing must escape!
Peace returns to the little Eden only when every last villian has been exorcised. Out of breath, the True Gardener bends down tenderly to inspect the ravages. Yes, some nurslings have the look of granny's lace handkerchief, but most will doutless survive the seiges--of both insects and of gardener, as well.
Before long the planted plants, responding to the labors of love from the True Gardener, begin to overtake the unplanted plants, the latter having to fight back against frequent attacks from this garden variety of Attila the Hun.
As the July sun widens into August, harvest begins in earnest. There starts a frenzy of storing, processing, tilling, mulching, watering, planting cover crops, spreading manure, re-tilling--time out for The First Melon of the Season--a triumph!--Ambrosia! You are wonderful, True Gardener!--back to it--digging potatoes, drying onions, cutting herbs, building root cellars, freezing, canning, cutting, peeling, squashing, pureeing, pickling, drying--
And then some crass individual has the temerity to ask, "Isn't anybody tired of SALADS?"
--coring, slicing dicing, picking, dividing, shelling, cracking, and finally, at last, we come to the end. THE FIRST FROST.
The True Gardener sits back in his recliner beside the fireplace, sipping his homemade low-cal tomato-carrot cocktail and eating roasted squash seeds. The fragrances of approaching October fill the air: sweet mellow onions, hanging in the shed; the apples, a tangy perfume. Reds, oranges and golds paint the countryside as autumn embraces the land.
And then a voice, like the distant sound of temple bells, calling the faithful, tinkles in the offing:
"Oh, I almost forgot, dear. Something came for you in the mail today."
"Oh? What was it?"
"It's a new seed catalog, they're putting out early this year..."