The UAC has an organic garden, and I’ve started spending my Tuesday mornings working with the staff and students who manage it. It’s a beautiful place, and the woman who directs the garden is a graduate of the UAC’s agronomy program. She has such a depth of knowledge about how to cultivate the plants, and she’s very dedicated to helping students learn through working in the garden. I’ve already learned a great deal about using organic fertilizers, harvesting seeds, and preparing beds for new seedlings. It’s been a wonderful addition to my weekly schedule, a time both to relax and to focus intently on the specific and particular, to interact with the earth and the plants, and to feel like a part of a productive, living community.
I’ve appreciated the opportunity to garden especially this week, given the events in Egypt, Syria, and other war-torn places around the world. I recently came across a poem about gardening in the book Word of Mouth, edited by Catherine Bowman; it’s a collection of poetry featured on NPR’s “All Things Considered,” published in 2003, and it has some really beautiful, unique, and varied pieces. This one expresses so well the healing and wellbeing that working in the dirt with green, growing things can bring, especially amidst the bewildering tragedy and horror that fills so much of the news:
“Song of the Gourd”
In gardening I continued to sit on my side of the car: to drive whenever possible at the usual level of distraction: in gardening I shat nails glass contaminated dirt and threw up on the new shoots: in gardening I learned to praise things I had dreaded: I pushed the hair out of my face: I felt less responsible for one man’s death one woman’s long-term isolation: my bones softened: in gardening I lost nickels and ring-settings I uncovered buttons and marbles: I lay half the worm aside and sought the rest: I sought myself in the bucket and wondered why I came into being in the first place: in gardening I turned away from the television and went around smelling of offal the inedible parts of the chicken: in gardening I said excelsior: in gardening I required no company I had to forgive my own failure to perceive how things were: I went out barelegged at dusk and dug and dug and dug: I hit rock my ovaries softened: in garding I was protean as in no other realm before or since: I longed to torch my old belongings and belch a little flame of satisfaction: in gardening I longed to stroll farther into soundlessness: I could almost forget what happened many swift years ago in arkansas: I felt like a god from down under: chthonian: in gardening I thought this is it body and soul I am home at last: excelsior: praise the grass: in gardening I fled the fold that supported the war: only in gardening could I stop shrieking: stop: stop the slaughter: only in gardening could I press my ear to the ground to hear my soul let out an unyielding noise: my lines softened: I turned the water onto the joy-filled boychild: only in gardening did I feel fit to partake to go on trembling in the last light: I confess the abject urge to weed your beds while the bittersweet overwhelmed my daylilies: I summoned the courage to grin: I climbed the hill with my bucket and slept like a dipper in the cool of your body: besotted with growth; shot through by green