Sunday, February 28, 2010

A Lesson from the Garden

As the buds begin to swell and bulbs send their shoots up through the soil, I am afflicted from two directions. A long, cold and overcast winter indoors has left me with an antsy cabin fever, topped by a serious case of excited anticipation brought on by signs of spring.

Every ounce of me is overwhelmed by the urge to have my hands covered in my garden's soil. Ever since childhood, I have always loved the feel of soil on my hands, making my skin feel like it is home. Even during landscape tasks when I wear gloves to prevent blisters and scrapes, I always manage to get soil inside the gloves. This isn't a conscious decision, but I think my inner gardener manages to sneak a little dirt down the wrists when I'm not looking.

The urge to dig in the soil as spring arrives is a dangerous one for the gardener. While the temperatures and plants may signal the start of the growing season, it will be a while before the soil is ready to be disturbed. In the process of thawing and being inundated by spring rains, the soil will be saturated for at least another six weeks. Digging in wet soil is one of the seven deadly sins of gardening. Not only is it difficult, but it will also destroy the texture of the soil, making it a less hospitable growing environment for your plants.

For me as a gardener, the temptation is akin to holding a treat just out of reach of a child, albeit a child that knows better. Try as I may, I have never been able to suppress the urge to get my hands dirty, long before the soil is ready for me.

But, this morning as I was doing some indoor chores around the house, I glanced out our living room window into the garden that lies beneath the sugar maple on the south side of our house. The morning sun cast its rays across the snow and had just begun to brighten the faces of the frog family statuary that rests near a wooden planter at the base of the tree.

The father frog sits reading his book, mother with her tea, and their child hugs his bear. My first thought as I saw this scene was, "They'll sure be happy when the snow is finally gone." But I then realized they didn't look impatient or discontent at all. In fact, those frogs sit there and take each day as it comes, cold or hot, rain or shine. Like with many things in our lives, our frogs (and please excuse my foray into anthropomorphism) have no power over their surroundings or what happens to them. They can't change the weather or their environment any more than I can hurry the drying of our garden soil.

So perhaps I should take a lesson from our garden frogs. Spring will come when it does, and my hands will eventually by home again in the soil.

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