For me, this first spring day in the garden is one of thanksgiving. Celebrating traditionally at harvesttime is easy. But paeans for the promise to be fulfilled here have to come from within - from faith reinforced by glorious memories of earlier efforts rewarded.
So, nestled on a mat of dried weeds I've been pulling from our vegetable patch, I'm thankful another winter has faded, and for confirmation a newly arrived song sparrow is staking claim to a corner of the yard. Thankful for the predictably pitiful remnants of strawberry plants, I'm tucking back into the ground where frosts have heaved them out. They'll reward me by shooting out vigorous new fruitful plants to supply our table this summer. And I'm thankful for our tenant worms, rerouted by my trowel. They've flourished and cultivated our loamy soil, barren until enriched with compost, now fragrant as a fresh-plowed field. I used to make a terrarium every fall, for opening up in midwinter when hungry for such an earthy whiff. (I'd made my last when the indoor warmth spawned a plague of brown grubs, but no predator to enjoy them.)
And I'm thankful for the radiant sun, penetrating the thawed ground and the dormant tree limbs and my own frame - quickening us with a surge of vitality - releasing our winter-bound forces.
Marking time, till its arc rose once more, I soaked up sunbeams, angled feebly into our sun porch and puttered with the hanging plants - even tended the parsley and basil for the kitchen. I tried to salvage a tomato plant and a pepper plant from last summer's garden. On the windowsill they flowered, but never did set fruit. For me, indoor plants are to gardening what TV dinners are to cooking - an unsatisfying substitute.
Now, as I minister to this little patch of ground, all my senses are conscious of renewed connections. Here where I sit feeling the breezes from afar , with my fingers and feet in the soil, I've a relationship with the Indians who eked a living from this land, with early settlers who had to stock root cellars to make it through the winter. No trips to the supermarket through the snowdrifts for them.
I can spend time out here as the mood hits me or as I can fit it into my schedule. It's not a life-or-death thing for this family. But nonetheless, when I have a crop failure due to drought or downpour - when I've a tussle with borers or blackspot, my heart reaches out to my brethren in the rice paddies of the Orient, on the hillside terraces of Central America, in the family patches of Pakistan. I've a closer communion with them and their hardships. And I've an inkling of the concern of our Long Island potato farmers who've lost some battles with little enemies in the soil.
Aware of the many hazards between seeding and harvesting, I'm thankful that from sea to shining sea our nation's warming surface is being readied for its crops by seasoned farmers - by families born to the soil and by well-trained and enterprising associates. Though no produce can ever taste as sweet as that nurtured on our home ground, I'm thankful that those real farmers are out there backing me up - betting their all on the promise of a harvest worthy of our National Day of Thanksgiving.
Song Sparrow, may I join you in a chorus of Hallelujahs?