cynthyb


Leave a comment

The Volunteer

Blog Post #41

mojave desert

Mojave Desert

This year, our otherwise fruitful garden looks more like the Mojave Desert. After much deliberating, my husband, Brad, chose not to plant his favored vegetable garden because of the amount of water it would require during a time of serious drought. Reluctantly, he sacrificed his annual indulgence of thick, red, juicy slices of homegrown garden tomatoes to go on his homemade bread spread with a generous layer of homemade basil pesto. We still have the bread and pesto, but let’s face it—eating a grocery store tomato is like biting into a bar of soap. I was sad when he told me his plans, because I know how he looks forward to this summer delicacy each year, often eating his healthy, tomato-y treat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all in the same day!

Pesto-Tomato-Grilled-Cheese-__thumb2

A few months ago, our grandson, Max, came to do some yardwork and weed the neglected garden plot. As I was showing him what he needed to pull-up, we found a small tomato plant had pushed its way up through the soil and was competing with the weeds for sun and for the gentle showers that were the gift of Kind Providence throughout the winter and spring. I put a stake in the ground next to the little volunteer tomato plant to identify it, and told Max to pull up everything but the tomato. I was excited to show it to Brad when he got home from work!  However, it’s hard to beat “Nature’s Son” when it comes to anything having to do with the natural world. He had spotted it long before I did.

Hobble Creek

Hobble Creek Canyon, Springville, Utah

I’m not sure why I thought I could see it first. Eons ago, when we were dating, Brad would be driving up Hobble Creek Canyon in Utah at forty miles per hour, and would point to a mountainside from here to the North Pole, exclaiming, “See those deer on the side hill?” I’d strain my eyes in the general direction he pointed. I saw the mountain all right; I saw trees in abundance, but no deer. Squinting like an utterly bewildered four-year-old intently focused on the night sky at the end of her dad’s pointed finger as she tried to locate Cassiopeia, I’d say with frustration, “WHERE?”  To which he’d once again point in the general direction of Lake Erie and cry, “Those little white things—on the side hill!” “NO! I don’t see them!” I’d cry, desperate, now.  “There!” he’d announce with greater intensity and heightened pitch. Again, I’d stare wild-eyed at the mountain looking for the white things, with one eye wandering (like ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody) toward the road—since someone needed to look at it. Finally, after whizzing by that blur of mountainside, he’d back up the Ford Bronco and pull to the side of the road.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Old Ford Bronco similar to the one Brad drove

After ten more minutes of straining, at last, I could see the teeny-tiny, spots that were deer way off in the distance, their little white tails sticking up in alarm—as if they knew Mr. Telescope Eyes had caught them in the act of bathing. I marveled each time this happened. (I came to realize his eyes were sharp enough and trained enough to spy those bitty camouflaged specks of deer on the mountain while watching the road at the same time. I don’t know how he did it, but he did it dozens and dozens of times.)

1

Lone mule deer on side hill. Imagine trying to locate this deer with the state of Vermont between you and the mountainside.

And I thought he hadn’t seen the little tomato plant….

The Volunteer

 

Volunteers (2)

The Volunteer

 

As I washed dishes, I watched the little tomato plant from the kitchen window. Moved by its courageous efforts, I went out to admire its deepening red fruit. It stood there, alone, but triumphant in that deserted garden—a monument to the strength and tenacity of a lone, little seed. The thing that most touched me was that this little plant had volunteered. It hadn’t been carefully coddled as a seedling, nor had it been transplanted like a start from a nursery. Someone else had not made the decision. It had sprung up of its own accord, against the odds, amidst neglect, and among weeds that were strangers and competitors of all it required to thrive. Not only did the little tomato plant forge onward and upward, alone in the world, it spread its leaves out and gathered in the rays of the sun, amassing strength and power to benefit its fledgling roots, asking nothing of anyone, and defying naysayers. That would be enough to admire, but that’s not all. This little volunteer is producing fruit. I counted twenty-eight tomatoes in various stages of development on its branches last evening. It volunteered in order to bless others—in a sense, the ultimate sacrifice: to give its life for its friends.

 

Volunteers (3)

A second volunteer

As I walked back toward the house with my camera in hand, pondering the little tomato plant, I noticed another volunteer. Bedecked in brightly colored regalia, it called to me to notice its offering—that of beauty and cheer. I smiled as I crouched down to take its picture. Living up to its name, little Johnny Jump-up had done just that. I realize some consider this little viola a weed because it springs up readily all over the place and with very little assistance. I see it as one of those volunteers who, tiny as it is, spreads its exuberance and optimism in the least likely places—growing just as well in topsoil as in cracks in the cement. I welcome its offering and praise its purple badge of courage for forging ahead –smiling in the face of the danger presented by its location in the sidewalk.

42db2-doves1

I walked through the rest of the yard and was surprised to discover other characters who had long been there, but whose alter egos I hadn’t discovered before.

The Encroacher

 

VEncroacher

The Encroacher

All along the walls of our backyard are encroachers—vines that began growing in someone else’s yard, then gradually, stealthily, snuck-up on ours. They have now climbed and spread their leafy tentacles over the wall. Repeatedly we’ve cut them back, but without regard for our wishes, they continue to march over the wall like another wave of infantry ready for combat on the field of battle. They are determined, and ruthless, weakening the fence on the east until it has taken to leaning, and creeping onto and over the ground on the south. They care not for what we think, or what we want. I resent their pushiness. It’s not as if they’re volunteers—springing up from the ground from a forgotten seed like our little tomato.  No, they’re well-established old-timers—“The Good Ol’ Boys” of the plant world—who, with their cronies, push their network of intolerant “plantism” into our yard where they’re completely unwanted.

The Fighters

 

VFighter (1)

The Fighters

In the yard, there’s an old, cement fountain bowl that my father made four decades ago, but cast aside because it wasn’t perfectly round in shape. (I say cast aside, not threw away. There’s a difference. My parents were of the depression era mindset that you don’t throw things away.) In time, my mother filled that old fountain with dirt and planted it with succulent plants and cacti. It sat for years in the corner of the yard on the kitchen side.

When Brad and I moved home a decade after my mother’s passing, I relegated the failing fountain succulent planter to the opposite end of the yard, filled it with fresh dirt and planted it with a variety of pretty flowers and greenery. It looked beautiful that first season, but the drought and heat took their toll and all of the plants died. I thought.

I found that each spring, drought or not, up pop these lovely little purple dwarf flowers  (Nierembergia Caerula) in a corner of the ring. They pay no heed to their location on the nether side of the yard, near the basketball court where they’re bound to get pounded at times, and where water comes in small increments—especially in that old cement bowl. They stand up shouting for respect—respect for their resilience, for their determination to survive, and for their beauty. And deservedly so. They’ve fought root and stem for their right to survive and I applaud their perseverance and admire their beauty!

The Pleasers

 

20160602_131257

The Pleaser

My artichoke plants have really worked hard to please. It isn’t their fault that they were planted in the middle of an ant metropolis, or that they were planted just when we were learning how expensive water is in our community, or how serious the drought had become. And it certainly isn’t their fault that their husbandmen were inexperienced with artichokes and did not know how to take better care of them so their fruit would be moist and tender. They have given their all to produce. They’ve grown to enormous proportions, producing more than twenty artichokes on a single plant. They are amazing! Unfortunately, they are tough to eat, even when picked young. Artichokes can be a labor-intensive dish to prepare (the way my mother taught me is labor intensive, but delicious). After trying to cultivate, harvest and prepare them several years in a row, I have now retired our artichoke plants.

But they are Pleasers. Brad cuts them down to the ground, and they immediately begin growing back with large and flourishing leaves. Soon more artichokes appear. I look at them and sigh. Right now, with the dynamics of our lives, I don’t have the time, energy or patience to wrestle with those tough, spiky, ant-beridden buds only to be disappointed by their toughness. Being the pleasers they are, they don’t give up there. No! After growing to the size of softballs, the buds open up their pointed petals, and begin to produce the most beautiful, soft to the touch, lavender flowers related to the thistle family. Showy? Yes! Worth the wait? Absolutely! They found a way to please—if not epicuriously, then by appealing to one’s sense of mystery, beauty and art.

The Old Stalwart

 

VOld Stalwart

The Old Stalwart

Walking back toward the house, I stopped and contemplated the great, old Peruvian Peppertree casting its cooling shade umbrella-like over the patio. For close to fifty years it has stood firm and immovable, enduring years of plenty, and years of neglect (during which time my elderly father mourned the loss of my mother), as well as undergoing hefty pruning over the decades. The Old Stalwart created a beautiful canopy for our eldest daughter’s wedding reception twenty years ago, and now, protects my father’s great-grandchildren who play under its branches from the searing rays of the sun. With quiet dignity, it stands apart, a giant beacon of hope, strength, and endurance.  It is both mighty, and serene. It is friend, and grandfather, and it is beautiful to me—like an old friend.

269cf-scroll

Each time I walk through the yard—even though relentlessly affected by drought, or maybe because of it—I see our garden in a new way. Mother Nature’s creations are not wimpy, or cowering, but endure with a strength and resilience that demand respect and inspire awe.

86529549_XS

Stopping once more to gaze with admiration at The Volunteer, I am flooded with gratitude to that little tomato plant. I wonder if the seedlings from which it sprang have infused within their DNA the hours of tender-loving nurturing and care Brad gave their parent plants, and are returning the favor in kind. I think Brad will relish every single bite of those precious few tomatoes this year, and they will be the sweetest, most precious ever because they were freely offered!

269cf-scroll

“Freely ye have received, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8)

269cf-scroll

Einstein Quote

The True Measure of a Man

End Piece

© June 3, 2016

From the bottom of my heart, I thank you, dear Friends, for reading.

Advertisements


6 Comments

"Waiting"

Blog Post #13

“Waiting on the Shore” Norman Rockwell


1wait
 verb \ˈwāt\
gerund or present participle: waiting
: to stay in a place until an expected event happens, until someone arrives, until it is your turn to do something, etc.
: to not do something until something else happens
: to remain in a state in which you expect or hope that something will happen soon

Waiting is difficult. 

I confess: I’m not very good at it, even though I’ve practiced my whole life.
Some years back we moved into a new subdivision. While planting strawberries on the slope between our house and the house next door, our neighbor, Chirin (originally from India), saw me and came over to chat. After talking about the strawberries, she shared an observation: “Americans seem to like instant things. In India, we plant seeds and wait for them to grow. Here, people buy mature plants and have instant gardens!” She talked about the pleasure she found in the process of planting, nurturing, and waiting for the seed to bring forth fruit.



We moved from that neighborhood many years ago, but her observation, like a tiny seed planted in my mind, germinated and grew over time. Chirin was right. We often do look for shortcuts, and we lose something when we don’t wait. Something important.


When I was a child, my parents bought a home in a new subdivision—the very home I’m now living in fifty years later. My parents loved the quaint little collegiate village they were settling in. It had a small town feel away from the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles. The streets, lined with lofty trees touching leaf and branch across neighborhood streets like old friends shaking hands, remain picturesque and inviting today. The founders of the town planted these trees in the 1890s and early 1900s with the anticipation that they would one day beautify the town they loved so well.  Their efforts are realized in the lush greenery that now canopies the town with shade during hot summer months and that adds character and dignity to the college atmosphere during leafless winters.

A tree-lined street in my home town


We made weekly visits to our developing property located in a newer section of town. Orange and lemon groves were removed to make way for housing. At first, the tract was nothing but a stepped sea of grey dirt, level and barren, except for posts and flags marking lots, and an occasional tumble weed bouncing by. Next, cement slabs appeared, followed by a framework of timber. Week by week, we watched as the lot transformed into a skeleton of wood and stone, and then, into a home. There was value in this watching and waiting and anticipating. As our home was developing, so was an important aspect of character: patience.


 pa·tience
noun   [pey-shuhhttp://static.sfdict.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.pnghttp://static.sfdict.com/dictstatic/dictionary/graphics/luna/thinsp.pngns]  
1.     the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.
2.     an ability or willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay: to have patience with a slow learner.
3.     quiet, steady perseverance; even-tempered care; diligence: to work with patience.

When we were young, and wanted something, we were encouraged to save for it. We did chores, babysat and saved our allowance in order to, eventually, buy what we wanted. We were planting seeds of patience each time we went through this process. Sometimes, this meant working and saving, and sometimes it meant planning and creating. But we learned that dreams were attainable with work, perseverance and patience.


The art of “waiting” is perfectly illustrated in a favorite line from the musical The Music Man. Professor Harold Hill smooth-talks Widow Paroo into buying a cornet and band uniform for her son Winthrop. When clinching the deal, he tells her:

“…there won’t be a penny due till delivery, which gives him four weeks
to enjoy, to anticipate, to imagine, at no cost whatever….”

Widow Paroo & Professor Hill


Professor Hill giving Winthrop
his long-anticipated cornet

4 weeks of waiting rewarded!


When things come instantly, there isn’t time to “enjoy, to anticipate and to imagine”—all invaluable aspects of waiting. Joy in arriving at a destination, or achieving a goal, consists of 80% anticipation. 

Imagine not having to wait nine months for a baby to arrive. Those nine months are not only a necessary chunk of time for development on the baby’s part, but also for the would-be parents. Planning and preparing take time. But the dreaming about and anticipation while waiting add a measure of joy and excitement that culminates only when the precious package arrives! There is wisdom in God-given waiting.



Waiting is thrust upon us throughout life: we wait for an infant to learn to walk, to grow a tooth, or to say ‘mama’ or ‘papa’; we wait for a child to ride a bike, to drive a car, and to graduate from high school. We wait for a first date, for a job, and for a paycheck to arrive. We wait for good health when ill, for a dentist appointment to be over, for a letter to arrive in the mail. And as we age, we wait for children and grandchildren to visit, and ultimately, for death to send us home to God and loved ones beyond the veil of life. Life is about waiting. How we wait determines if we are happy or grumpy, prudent or foolish, faithful or inconstant. 



As with the rest of our town, our street was planted with parkway trees. Unlike the large oaks, elms and eucalyptus trees found in the older section of town, ours were scrawny pepper trees. Returning from the village on many occasions, my sister and I expressed our desire for our pepper trees to arch across the street like they did in the older part of town. We waited and waited. In the meantime, one or two of the trees on our street became diseased and were replaced by silk trees. Sometimes large branches were torn off by the wind. Our children climbed in the pepper trees, hanging from the branches like monkeys in the rainforest. In summertime, they covered our cars with cooling shade, and shielded us from the burning sun as we walked to the park.

Trees in the older part of our town


 Recently, I was driving home from the older part of town when I noticed the trees in front of our house were touching leafy fingers with those across the street! It took fifty-two years, but it had finally happened! And it happened when I wasn’t expecting it, and when I wasn’t looking. It happened while all kinds of wonderful life events danced beneath them. The trees needed time to grow and develop, and so did I. All the years of enjoying, imagining and anticipating were fulfilled.
 

Trees in front of our house


My lessons in waiting and patience have grown with the trees in our neighborhood. There’s no rushing the growth of a tree, and the same is true for me. It takes time to grow and develop into a mature plant, and into a mature adult. But life’s lessons were being learned through every stage of life–youth, adolescence and adulthood. Through joy and sorrow, broken limbs, and broken hearts, wind and storm, sun and rain, through celebrations and pain of death. Like the trees, I am learning what it means to reach across barriers and touch others with friendship, to recognize and share those gifts that are uniquely mine, and to wait patiently and anticipate tomorrow’s joys while living fully today. 


“The key to everything is patience.
You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.”
 – Arnold H. Glasgow


 


“Patience is power.
Patience is not an absence of action;
rather it is “timing”
it waits on the right time to act,
for the right principles

and in the right way.”



© Copyright July 17, 2014