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We’d lived in that house longer than six months.
It was beginning to feel like home.
The past couple of years we’d lived like nomads, moving from Phoenix to Taos, New Mexico to rural Washington and now, to this house in eastern Washington up a dirt road hill from Silver Lake.
I turned ten just about the time we moved in, smack in the middle of summer. I shyly met the neighbor boy, then another, then the girl one street over who would be my best friend and secret sharer during those awkward years called adolescence. Without school to keep us busy, we explored the woods beyond the cow pasture behind my house; we caught frogs in the marshy edges of the lake; we swam like like trout until we were pruned. Summer blended into fall and huge flocks of ducks and Canadian geese gathered on the lake to plan their southward routes. School began and time ticked along with the daily routine. Before long we’d passed months in the new house that was becoming home.
Spring, in all it’s melting, windy glory swept over our lakeside neighborhood and my dad, Lew, began digging a rectangle at the back of our yard.
A garden. A garden meant we’d be staying through until tomatoes ripened red and pumpkins plumped orangey and carrots grew big enough to pluck from the soil.
A garden meant putting down roots.
I joined him in the effort.
Now Lew does things old-school.
A child of the depression era, and a man who was used to hard-scrabble and a long days’ work, a father of seven. He worked his way through college, and then seminary with a growing family and his wife at home with the kids. So turning over a garden bed involved a strong back and a decent shovel. And a daughter who’d break up the dirt clods behind him.
I dutifully broke up the clods of dirt, picked out the weeds and piled the rocks around the edges of our rectangle.
“Let’s go get some seeds,” Dad suggested.
So, dirt covered, we drove to the hardware store and chose the seeds.
It was a hope-filled journey.
We perused the packets that shook like rattles and gleamed in technicolor the produce they promised. Being a white-bread girl, I only liked a few vegetables myself, but I was pleased to participate in growing things like zucchini and cucumbers, although I personally wouldn’t eat them. I chose the carrots and peas and corn. They rode home beside me in a paper sack, a rattling bundle of promise.
As the day began to wane into evening and the sky blue turned indigo to the east and fire-red in the west, and as the lake called silver just down the hill flamed gold, and the damp of the lake and the springtime earth clung to us and made our fingers cold, we tore open the packets and poured seeds into my small open palms.
Dad’s big hands would fumble with the seed and spill them, so he entrusted me with the seed-handling. With the garden rake he made straight rows across the width of the rectangle. A row for each variety of vegetable.
And I followed him, row by row and placed the seeds, as he instructed and at the depth the instructions told us to plant. Some were scattered and just dusted with the black soil, like the carrots. The corn we had to space farther apart. And the zucchini and pumpkins went into little mountains of dirt I made as I squatted near the cool earth. I looked a the hard pea seeds, more like little pebbles and dreamed of the freshly zipped pods and the plump green orbs I could eat right there in our lush garden.
We stuck the packets at the front-end of each row and held them down with a rock. Then I pulled the hose over and dad let a fine, cold mist spray over our rectangle of hope.
And I learned right there to love growing things.
I learned right there to taste the must of earth in the cool air of a spring night and feel the exhilaration of planting seeds of hope in the soil of trust.
I learned to watch and wait for the miraculous signs of life pushing through the dark, of holding that doubt and fear that asks, “What’s happening down there? Are the seeds ever going to sprout?” and breathing relief and smiling alone when the tiny flag of new growth appears where there was once nothing.
I learned right there that gardening and life and writing and love and everything else that matters so much to me that tears spring to my eyes when I think of them — they’re all about trust, and hope, and working until your back aches and the back of your throat is dry.
And the world of miracles exists in those tiny seeds that spring life from the earth, grow verdant and strong and bear food fit to eat – crunchy carrots, sweet peas, juicy corn and yes, even zucchinis.