Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Why We Garden

Yesterday at the Community Garden, we gathered for a little Memorial Day picnic and group gardening session. I offered a door prize, a copy of the new Smithsonian gardening book and we drew names from a hat. Each person had to write down why the loved to garden. The results?

A Poem of our Collective Thoughts on Gardening

I like to eat fresh things.
I like to eat and experiment.
It's like having little babies. And it's so delicious eating my own grown-from-seed crop. I learn so much, too.
It brings peace, allows me to help create.
I garden in the backyard, and so far my vegetables and herbs are doing great. I garden because I love vegetables and it gives me great pleasure to reap and cook my vegetables and they taste so much better.
I like to garden because I love watching things grow. it's amazing to see a seed or a small plant grow up to be something so large and edible.
I love to garden because it gives me peace of mind, it teaches me about life, and it gives me food (for mind, body, and soul).
Veggies are delicious, and home grown is a lot better than store bought.
I like to garden for tomatoes.
I like to garden as redemption.
Because it brings the Earth's energy into my life.
I like to garden for the connection to the elements of Earth and Beyond!

Below, an assemblage of portraits of my fellow gardeners. They all glow with health and from hard work. Just like Mama said, "You gotta eat your vegetables!" The Putterer


Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Memorial Day Recommitment

"I was lucky," my friend told me.
Three words. "I was lucky." My mind is on replay this weekend. I keep returning to a moment and hearing the story all over again. I repeat it to my friends. Each time I retell it, the story becomes a little more breathtaking.

I was over at the gym on Friday waiting for our instructor to arrive. My long-time yoga neighbor and I were lying next to each other on our mats. She's quick to laugh, so I say silly things to amuse her. We always giggle during a balance exercise and throw each other into a tumble.

So I was just on talk vomit, releasing whatever random thoughts were in my brain and this time it was cookies. The delicious cookies that my friend Tamara makes, a delicate near cloud-like confection of chocolate chips and oatmeal. They are manna from heaven and I had made a special request for them the night before. So trying to limit my sugar intake before bed that night, I was hoping only to have one. But then this new mantra that I've been practicing of respecting my impulses took hold and I grabbed two more and ate them with pleasure. The morning after, I told my Yoga friend, the scale registered almost five extra pounds. We were giggling then. I wasn't serious at all. Cookies. Weight gain. Just word vomit. To make my giggly friend giggle.

"Beth," she said, "when I eat cookies, I just eat as many as I want."

I don't know when the story turned, but it fell like a quiet thunder from her lips. Because, she said then, during the communist time "we ate nothing."

Washington, D.C., is a melting pot of nationalities. You almost forget how far people have traveled to be your neighbor. And when you ask sometimes the countries are so exotic, Togo, the Philippines, Malaysia, that you can't even imagine visiting.

Remind me, I said to my friend, where are you from? I heard it before she said it.


Your family?

All dead, she said.

The Khmer Rouge. My lovely friend. Always smiling. Always kind.

And then, with her hand over her face, she told me her story about living three-and-a-half years, beginning when she was 17, in a labor camp. Hard labor, she said. "It was our job to clear the land mines from the fields to grow rice."

But the rice, she said, was exported to China. And she got no food.

Oh, the killings, she said quietly. "I was lucky."

She was lucky because she lived. She was lucky because she managed to navigate a harrowing journey out of the camps as a refugee. She was lucky when she escaped the rapes and the murders in the refugee camps. And she was lucky she said that she wasn't pushed off a mountain when she arrived in Thailand. She was lucky she had a brother in the United States, who had left Cambodia before the ascent of the Khmer Rouge. And she was lucky because she managed to get a letter posted. And she was lucky because he found her. And on September 17, 1980, she was lucky because she came to the United States.

My beautiful friend. She works for the United States government now. After we work out, we laugh together in the locker room. I was always tease her because she takes too long in the shower. We get dressed again for the afternoon meetings. She puts on an elegant dress and heels, she paints her lips. I don't know what her profession is, but she commands a quiet authority, when she leaves the locker room. I always wish her a pleasant day.

The roads we've traveled brought us together. I don't know how she does it. But to her, she simply was lucky. And now she's quick to laugh at whatever silliness that I can concoct.

But the next time, I eat a cookie, I'm going to eating it slowly, and joyfully, and revel in my great good fortune. And for Memorial Day this weekend, I honor my friend, and all those in this world who suffer so unfairly at the hands of evil. The Putterer

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Weary Warrior

My goodness but the garden did its job this weekend. It took me into its embrace and nurtured me, gave me a place to recover and rest. And then once it had accomplished restoration, it demanded a kind of industry that energized me and gave me such sweet satisfaction.

I've been thinking about sustainability. Ever since my daughter Claire took the bold, brave move to visit a completely self-sustaining farm in Ecuador. She spent an entire week off the grid at a place called Sacred Suenos near Vilcabamba in southern Ecuador. I've been thinking about how I have slowly been evolving a garden that once only grew pretty flowers along pathways of stone and grass to something that is sustaining life and repurposing itself in its compost and in the food it grows. And as I've evolved from a rather uneducated gardener to one that sees the garden as a metaphor for all things, I've also somehow managed to turn a rather dispassionate young girl, who sometimes stopped to admire it, into a young woman, who cares enough about gardens that she spent a week working hard on a real one that tries vigorously to be a fully sustainable farming venture. Last night, she told me that she thinks that whereever she goes, she'll try to grow something in a garden.

Well, I guess my garden has done its job there too. For me, I arrived home Friday completely wiped out. This project was for all practical purposes nearly impossible to do. Had I tried to do it all by myself, I would have failed. Fortunately, I was able to multiply forces by engaging my colleagues to pitch in just small amounts, in a many-hands make less work fashion. Still, I woke early each day, worked through lunches, stayed late in the evenings and even worked through on a Saturday. So that by the time, I signed off at about 7 p.m. last Friday, I had clocked innumerable hours.

Saturday morning, I woke at 4:30 as if I was still on deadline. My body wanted to sleep, but my mind tracked only to this rigorous schedule. So I got up intent on reading all that I had missed in the past four weeks. By 8:30, I was coffee'd up and so Kate and I went off to Behnkes. There, I wandered around studying the plants, thinking of places in my garden where I might add this, or transplant that. But the thought of raising a shovel or turning any dirt was so beyond anything I could possibly do. When I got home, I took a book and some tea down to the garden. And there I rested, reading and listening to the catbirds call each other. I drifted off to sleep in my purple chair. The cool breeze sometimes pushing a lock of hair across my forehead. And there I rested for a couple of hours, until I realized that what I needed to do was to go to bed. And so off to bed, in the middle of the afternoon. And through the night and into the morning, I slept and recovered.

Well, Sunday morning, the catbirds called me into action. I felt so good. The morning was fresh. The garden was glorious. I took my bike to the farmer's market for the first time. All those times we've traveled Piney Branch Road by car, I never realized how steep those hills were. Pumping harder, accessing core strength, even screaming out with joy as I pushed myself up the hills. Heads turned inside passing cars to check out the crazed woman. Sailing back down on the other side, wind in my hair. Oh joy, I live a charmed life. All day, I worked in my garden, mowing grass, feeding compost, pulling weeds and singing the songs that pumped through my iPod into my ears. And when it was all done. I took a look at what I had created and I felt so happy. What joy! The Putterer

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Putter Splendor

Yesterday, I went out to get the paper and the profusion of blooms just took my breath away. I got my camera and started shooting. Peonies, roses, irises, everything. The Putterer