As the Fourth of July weekend wraps up, I feel a shift happening. Maybe it's finally being in full-fledged summer with steady 90-plus degree days on the horizon, but it also feels like something more. It's almost a heightened consciousness, the ability to see and feel the past, present and future of my life all at once and to work with all of them to build something meaningful and true to myself.
Being back in my home state, only a half-hour drive from where I grew up, I am reconnecting with a life I shucked off when I made the decision to leave and the later series of decisions that led me to stay gone for as long as I did. I was afraid of facing past "demons", old versions of myself I wanted to forget or deny, confronting the fact I hadn't "turned out" like I had planned. All part of a very shallow rationale, as it turns out.
Being back has actually been a very different experience. Sure, when I pass the park district I remember my traumatic attempts at playing softball there, or the ill-conceived attempt at braiding all my hair to look like this, or the series of awkward interactions between me and...well, nearly everyone all the time, but none of that really matters. There's also been a tremendous opportunity for growth, for re-evaluating and re-centering myself, connecting to forgotten childhood dreams, and spending nourishing, quality time with my family and getting to know my incredible nephews. I see the suburbia I for so long rolled my eyes over as comforting and familiar now, and I'm able to see the things and people from home through a new lens, devoid of the counter-productive snark and cynicism of my early twenties.
I feel this may be a common tale and one of the reasons I so connect with the PBS show A Chef's Life. Do you know this show? It's about an NYC chef, Vivian Howard, who returns to her hometown in Eastern North Carolina because her parents offer to help her open her own restaurant but only if she does so where she grew up. She says right in the credits it's "where [she] swore [she] would never return" but each episode is about her exploring the unique community, ingredients, landscape and nature of her hometown with a fresh perspective. Vivian encounters and learns from people who fish for their livelihood, shuck lima beans, grow strawberries and hunt for ramps - all things that connect the chef to the land from where their products came. It's interesting because she sort of seems humbled by these people who are doing these seemingly small, tedious tasks but executing them so wonderfully and taking pride in their products.
Anyway, I guess I like this because Vivian is coming full circle, back to her roots but armed with everything she learned while she was away, and I guess that is what I would say I'm doing as well. Because without coming full circle, how does one ever feel complete?
I've also been making a very conscious effort to expand my knowledge of the world around me and with each new revelation, it's like an awakening of the spirit that propels me forward. Mostly what I've learned is to be humbled by my lack of knowledge but not afraid of it. To read about and explore topics that I don't understand immediately and forge ahead until they start to soak in.
One such example is a documentary we watched last night called The Garden of Eden. This film presupposes a certain amount of knowledge of organic farming and permaculture that I don't know if I fundamentally yet understand, but I made a decision to not back away as I may have in the past, but to allow these things in and to let them kind of sit for awhile and have faith that they will click and lead me to an "aha" moment of understanding.
The Garden of Eden is a beautiful film about a farmer, Paul Gautschi, in Washington state, who spent his life perfecting organic growing practices and, after observing the way trees grow in nature, started practicing the art of non-doing to mimic that natural state of the world. He observed that the forest floor was made up of decayed leaves, wood chips and other plant matter in the state of decomposing and in this death, new life was formed without man's intervention. So he started using this same matter as a mulch over his compost in his own garden and now never even has to water his soil because it retains moisture so well and he has the most perfect, juiciest and sweetest plants you could find. He's a very interesting guy and the film is definitely worth a watch. You can see it here.
This week, we'll get some wood chips to add to our own garden, which incidentally has undergone some changes in the past few days. We decided to harvest all of the swiss chard and arugula, not having enough space for it to grow any larger. Besides, the arugula was beginning to go to seed, which you can see below.
I love those papery white blossoms so much, they're so delicate and exotic looking. I figured this was probably my favorite part of growing the arugula and so decided to plant some flowers as well. I bought just a wildflower mix that wants partial shade and sowed the seeds into the pallet garden, which we pulled the cilantro, dill, chives and parsley from because they were overcrowded and sad looking. I must be more regimented about pruning, because this is really the best way to maintain the health of the plant.
We had an Elaine-sized Big Salad. We've also had our green beans (or haricot verts, if you will) shoot up, and the mint, thyme and lavender have all been going pretty crazy too.
We also added some worms and compost to the soil this weekend to keep everything healthy and ready for the impending heat wave. Luckily, everything has partial shade so won't get too baked in the sun.
That is all for now. As always, please share any thoughts of your own gardening or homesteading adventures!