or Food and Drink
Work, and of the best sort.
Yesterday: a few minutes watering seedlings in the micro-garden; a trip to the hardware store for concrete blocks, rebar, and bamboo poles; an afternoon spent chatting with the neighbors and turning my purchases into a stand for the rain barrel, stakes for the Lady Banks rose (trust me, she would eat a fancy trellis for lunch), and supports for the "Coronation Gold" yarrow, which otherwise will give way to the first windstorm (and every windstorm thereafter). —An afternoon to water all the beds, as the 0.11 inches of moisture we've received so far this year can't kick-start spring in a young garden; a few more minutes to empty the pots of perennials that didn't survive our once-in-fifty-years cold spell.
Today: more of the same only better, in 55°F morning temperatures, in a sheltered, walled garden that warms to tank-top comfort levels. The tasks: cleaning and filling the bird and bug baths (setting some dried navy beans to soak); moving the "volunteer" feverfew seedlings to containers, where their blossoms will attract beneficial insects for weeks in mid-summer (taking a few moments' rest in the Adirondack chair); watering the seedlings in the micro-garden again (ducking inside for a glass of water); dividing the "Moonshine" yarrow and moving the divisions to a sunnier bed, out of the growing desert olive trees' shade (lying down for an hour's bedrest); moving the Keller's yarrow from the sand cherries' shade to the sunny, more-or-less native bed (putting the beans on to cook); working coffee grounds and tea leaves into our alkaline, "decomposed granite" soil (harvesting tarragon and garlic chives). Resting, before the white bean salad with Shannon's citrus-tarragon vinaigrette goes on the table.
This weekend, I've been thinking about the rhythms of care—the seasonal care we give to the garden, the daily care; the sometimes competing, sometimes complementary care we give to ourselves; and the sometimes out-of-the-blue priority we give to a work ethic that may or may not be helpful. It's been disconcerting to remember the extent to which need (the yarrows, in too much shade; a thirsty human) can end up competing with function (the garden could use some filler here; I still have this one task left to finish...). How do we balance them—work and care? the drive to accomplish something right away and the natural rhythms of growth, of need? Somehow or other we do, and things either work out or they don't. For the most part, only small things hinge on our decisions—one human, one garden, a handful of plants, perhaps a few bees; things that matter in a small sphere, that may accumulate to have a wider effect, but that don't (with an ironic bow in the direction of chaos theory) affect the world at large.
From time to time, however, something mammoth interrupts the easy seasonal rhythm of care, reminds us of the world beyond our garden walls, shouts that other gardens need tending, that other humans need the food and drink of compassion. While our kindred in Japan have a strong and resilient system to cope with natural disasters, the recent tsunami reminds us all how fragile our security really is, how great a leveler nature can be. I haven't researched the organizations that exist internationally to contribute toward disaster relief, but in the USA, InterAction.org is a starting-point directory of NGOs; other longstanding charitable organizations are accepting contributions as well, of course.
Sometimes care extends beyond our garden walls, and giving becomes our work—work of the very best sort.