This time of year, friends fall easily into two neat categories.
By “garden” in this context, I am referring to a vegetable garden. Flower gardens are great, but I have rarely, if ever, seen anyone work as hard in a flower garden as an annual veggie plot. What is that verse in the book of Genesis about the “sweat of your brow”? Man alive – the Almighty was not kidding.
Those of us with gardens are working hard. The rain has stopped, more or less, but the weeds are still growing. Everything is ripening and needs attention to be preserved, or enjoyed, or shared. And, if there’s to be anything fresh to eat this winter, the time to plant it is right now. The game is on.
Friends With Gardens know this. When we meet, which is fairly infrequently right now due to the work load of the season, it is understood that we are busy people. My F-wigs remind me that I’m not crazy (or at least that I could be crazier) or alone in the fact of spending all my time in the garden or the kitchen. Our conversations usually turn around the season’s doings, one way or another, either rejoicing in the abundance therein, or sympathizing with a crop failure. More often than not, we share both. Of course, there are some Friends With Gardens who seem to always be struggling with the season. And then there are other Friends who never ever admit that a growing season might be going poorly. It takes all kinds, I guess, and no matter what color glasses they wear, I am always glad to share a chat about the various way things go in the world of deep food production. I’m passionate about it, even when there’s way too much of it to do.
Our Friends With Out Gardens, on the other hand, have very little concept about the absolute whirlwind that we are living in right now. My garden-less friends have variable responses to my food/work obsessions, ranging from respect, to befuddlement, and even dismay. Some think I must be out of my mind to live like a monkey and work like a draft horse in the middle of the sticks. Some think I am wonder-woman, churning out gourmet food with my bare hands. I can only be grateful for their praise and humble in the face of their critical concern. My Fellow Man and I have long agreed that our gardens are a hobby out of control, as well as a physical, mental, spiritual and economic enterprise. It is difficult to imagine not growing most of our own food. At the moment, it’s downright impossible. After all, it’s summer, and the tomatoes are just getting started.
For F-wogs, summer is the season of vacation and relaxation. It’s a good time to travel, maybe to the beach or the mountains, or to visit friends in the country (F-wigs, like us). A dip in the creek is worth putting up with the out-house. The shade of the forest is pleasant, and the food is spectacular. I love to see them coming. I love that they want to visit our beautiful funky scene, knowing full well that I won’t be able to get away for a visit to their place for a few months yet.
Yes, the to-do list is so long I have to laugh about it, or else I would cry. I can be busy every moment of the day, no problem. I have used the line from one of my favorite characters in a Wendell Berry novel: “If you want to talk with me, you’re gonna have to walk.” It’s not a laid back time for us. But it’s a joyous and full time, and it can become even more so if we crack it open to share with friends.
Spending time with friends, whether they are gardeners or not, always reminds me that I am more than a woman with too much food on her hands. More than the sum of my callouses and aching back. More than even the beautiful fragrance of the new cantaloupe. I am a friend, capable of love, laughter, and listening. Time with friends is time spent cultivating for a different harvest, a different fruit, from the Big Garden of Life. It is a nourishment for the heart and soul, which is at least as important as the belly.