Memory Lane

Reader Contribution by Tobias Whitaker
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In hindsight it is easy to navigate the decisions of our life path and their eventual consequences and influence further down the road in our journey.

When I was a young boy, no more than 6, my parents decided to plant a large garden on my grandfather’s property. There was a main plot comfortably nestled between my grandparents’ property and the land they had sold to my aunt and uncle. There was also a large potato patch 100 yards away from the main garden tucked in the corner of my grandparents’ property.

I have many fond memories of those gardens. I know for a fact, it was the experience that eventually led to me being a homesteader. I remember the breeze caressing the evergreens and blue jays squawking with brazen arrogance from the hidden limbs. It was hot that summer, that much I surely remember. In my mind’s eye, I can still picture the effort it took to carry the aluminum watering can from my grandfather’s house to the garden through the little walking path. My skinny legs bumping the can every other step and the cool satisfaction of water spilling down my leg as I struggled to keep my balance.

My grandfather, “Pa,” planted the seed of good stewardship.

That garden was the first place I ate a carrot straight from the soil. I can still taste the sweet root and my utter surprise at how delicious it was. I do not think that a single sweet pea made it to the table that summer. I spent many an afternoon eating peas straight from the pod while bugs hissed and snapped a summer serenade from the deep pasture grass that surrounded the garden. I still plant peas three decades later due to that initial experience. 

My parents never returned to the garden. I don’t know why. Maybe they felt financially secure enough to abandon the venture as many families in the early 1980s in my hometown. Maybe it was simply far more work than they were willing to exert over the course of a summer. Regardless of the reason behind the decision we never set spade to soil again as a family. Much to my sorrow. But the seed was planted. I fell in love with the stewardship of the land and the freedom that can be found in the quiet space of a garden, whether surrounded by city concrete or wide open landscapes. I yearned to return to the smell of freshly turned soil and to witness the dew upon a spider web in the sleeping dawn.

“The Earth is my church,
I kneel in prayer
while I pull back grass
and root
plantain and dandelion
heavy with stone
in search of a precious body of soil
lost to the memory of childhood
I will feed my family
from this sacred ground
in return for each precious gift, the fruit of my labor
I will admire her sun and storms
as the temple of divine insight.”

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