A Life Transformed – Part 2

Part II: Dreams

            My summer in the garden changed my vision for my future almost entirely. Things about which I had rarely thought suddenly became central to my idea of happiness. Food was one of those. Being blessed with the opportunity to eat so much whole, real, home-grown food has deeply convinced me of its importance. In just the past few years since we moved here, my family has developed a simple, but unique food culture that gives me a physical, tangible connection to this place as I move on to college and other chapters of my life. I’ve even told my parents that for my graduation present the only thing I want is a supply of our home-canned vegetable soup mix, salsa, Mom’s apple sauce, and, of course, green beans. My everyday breakfast of homemade yogurt and the delicious mainstay of homemade bread with homemade strawberry jam are traditions I plan to carry on. I’ve learned here how powerful food, especially whole, healthy, real food, can be to bring families and communities together.

            Now, when I look at my family’s garden, I see a great deal more than plants that give me nourishment. I see a visual representation of my connection to my family and to this place and of my own personal growth. I see a teacher that has many more lessons for me, lessons about simplicity, gratitude, humility, discipline, perseverance, respect, inner peace, the importance of connections, gentleness, caring, observation, hard work, independence, and love. I truly believe that, as Masanobu Fukuoka teaches, “The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation of human beings.” Growing food is about growing yourself.

            But most exciting, when I look at my garden I see my dreams for the future connections I hope to share between myself, the land, and my own family. When I look at the corn field I can hear the taps of my toddlers’ feet and the excited squeals of their game of “peek-a-boo” between the stalks. I can imagine their dad calling them over to help him stuff one of his old shirts for a scarecrow and a precocious 3-year-old telling them they’re doing it wrong. I can see myself buried in a mass of green bean vines until I feel a tap on my shoulder; my little son’s face is glowing with pride at the huge carrot he has just picked. I look now at the tiny fruit trees we planted a year ago and imagine them tall and strong enough to hold little climbers eager for the first ripe apple of the season.

My glimpses have spilled over from the garden spot to encompass all of our land. I envision a driveway lined completely with blueberries and raspberries, flowerbeds filled with sweet potatoes in front of the porch. The house itself is very small, but always warm and filled with light and laughter and people rushing in and out. I can feel the rush of summer air as someone opens the back door to bring in another basket of green beans to snap. “Grandma” is taking a batch of her famous whole wheat bread out of the oven (the smell is to die for) and “Grandpa” is sitting in an armchair serenading us with his saxophone. Someone hops on the piano bench and it becomes a regular jam session. It’s harvest time, and there are tables set up everywhere for slicing cucumbers and peeling peaches. My brother and his wife are there canning their peaches and pickles with us. More probably gets eaten than goes into the bottles, but there’s more than plenty. With all of the grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, there are several conversations going on at once. The floor is kind of sticky in spots from where someone has absent mindedly knocked over the syrup for canning peaches. In the evening everyone helps clean up the kitchen and take dinner out to the back porch, where we sit until sunset.

            In my dream all of the people who mean most to me share my love for and connection to the land on which we live. I’m able to instill the importance of that connection in my children, and our whole family grows together through our experiences in the garden. It’s an important bond that we share and the memories of our summers together shape us all and keep us coming home, no matter what other far-ranging adventures life may have in store for us. We are made of this place. The very food we eat is made of the love we put into the garden. The garden is a place of Renewal from life’s stresses and hardships, Freedom from the pressures of the world, a Place to call home, a Refuge from pain, the Memory of golden days, the Peace of silence, the laughter of a Community, the promise of Justice, and the Transformation of the soul.

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