In Recollected Essays by Wendell Berry, there is an essay called: The Body and the Earth. At the beginning Berry shares a quote from James E. Bostic, Jr., Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Agriculture for Rural Development.
Here it is:
“But just stop for a minute and think about what it means to live in a land where 95 percent of the people can be freed from the drudgery of preparing their own food.”
Wait! Read that again…see what this man’s job was? It’s possible that this mentality led to the dying of our small farms. But to say that growing and preparing your own food is drudgery? To put your hands in the warm earth and plant…to water…to watch things grow…drudgery?
It was meant to be from the beginning. There is great satisfaction in seeing a garden grow. Even better: sharing with others around an old fashioned dining table.
We’ve lost something rewarding in our country. I am old enough to see the progression of it. When I was a child and went to “the farm” the milk was fresh, dinner was from the garden, and Grandma’s bread was homemade, along with her cookies. We ate wholesome eggs from the chicken barn. We enjoyed the hard work of stacking hay and shucking peas with grandma on a hot sunny day.
Grocery stores were much smaller with less variety of foods, and very little processed foods. Your meat was home-grown, or it came from a butcher. Small farms were manageable with a family with a few children. Working together, growing, preparing food was hard work, but satisfying. This was a great example of family unity.
I gave up the garden at the house when we moved. I always tried to grow cucumbers and I never had success. We had a flowering tree that smelled like oranges, a purple lilac, and Rose of Sharon. I left behind bleeding hearts, spring tulips, daffodils, lily of the valley, forget me not’s…and my blueberry bushes. I miss the yard and trees…and the big porch to sit out and watch my birds.
Though we moved to the city in winter, I recognized some of favorite trees I left behind. Lilacs and Rose of Sharon trees line the streets where I now walk.
Spring came late this year and in a blast of a moment. The trees suddenly burst everywhere and allergies once unknown to me burst forth also. I have never seen so many flowering trees in one place!
In return, I am enjoying flowers without work. My knees tell me this is all good, but I miss digging in the earth.
I bought pansies early because if you don’t, they’re gone. Then I couldn’t resist picking up flower seeds. My children gave more plants for Mother’s Day.
Just outside our apartment are six small boxes for anyone feeling the urge to garden. I dug in the earth, and I planted flowers and seeds, not vegetables. I hung hummingbird feeders, hoping the evergreens were close enough for cover.
Up and down the streets I can smell lilacs. Some places there are dogwoods, eastern redbuds, cherry trees and wisteria. Honeysuckle is everywhere.
Things that were once lost were given in return. I am not babying my neighbors’ flowers and trees, but I can still sing praises over them.
Blessed are the people who know the passwords of praise,
who shout on parade in the bright presence of God.
Delighted, they dance all day long; they know
who you are, what you do—they can’t keep it quiet!
Your vibrant beauty has gotten inside us—
you’ve been so good to us! We’re walking on air!
All we are and have we owe to God,
Holy God of Israel, our King! Psalm 89 Msg.