Stone House Diary – Pure Heaven

It’s been a good week. The rain that fell and fell and fell finally slowed, then stopped. Overcast skies became mostly cloudy with a chance of sun. The mist and haze made for unusually cool end-of-May days, while late sprays of sunlight served up a few stunning sunsets. The grass grew high, thickened, began bending under the weight of fattening seed heads. White and yellow daisies, purple skullcap and red clover bloomed in wild bouquets. Unchecked thistle started blossoming, too, their magnificent flowers concealing a wicked hunger to take over the world. Birds that had been sitting on nests hatched open-throated young chicks and began their late-spring feeding frenzy, a task made easier by worm-laden soggy ground. Early birds started to fly. On wet days, carloads of suddenly summering kids passed the house on their way to town. On drier days, they headed for the creek. Each way, the hammering beat of their music throbbed in the air like a collective heartbeat. We are young!, it pounded. We are alive!

As the landscape drank up the abundant moisture, the mechanical hum of lawn mowers and weed whackers, tractors and chainsaws hummed and squealed, competing with the calls of hungry chicks and lusty bobwhites. In the evening, after suppers were eaten and tools were stored, when the lights were turned low, whippoorwills’ songs of love and longing drifted softly on the damp air. The swelling moon wove in and out of clouds on its way to fullness while a few stars sparkled with ancient light.

For all of the beauty of these salad days, there’s been quite a bit of complaining about how wet it has been. Kids eager for sunshiny days and bare skin play have grown weary of being inside. Farmers needing to bring in their hay have been stymied as their grass goes to seed. Folks prepared for bright days and clear nights have seen their plans and moods dampened by the inclement weather.

For me, like so many others, the dismay has come largely in my inability to garden. Here it is, already June, and my garden lays planted with only beans, onions and a few tomatoes. The rest of the rows, six of eight, are filled again with grass and weeds that must retilled.

Unopened seed packets litter my dining room table. There are two stacks: Impatient but hopeful warmth-loving seeds like peppers, muskmelons and zucchini that should have gone in the ground at least a month ago. Every morning they smile at me and ask, “Today?” With each dry day, more of them are planted. Then there are the despondent, cold-loving seeds like peas and cabbage and broccoli. They will have to wait until fall to taste the richness of Missouri soil and spring water. They slump in a brooding jumble seeing only warmer temperatures ahead.

While I would rather have had my garden already in, I’m thrilled to be putting it in now. Every chance to get my hands in the dirt, to smell the musky scent of damp soil, to watch as seeds split and sprout, their early stems unfurling with hope… that is as exciting to me as the greatest thrill ride ever invented. And though getting such a delayed start will require more work tilling and hoeing to get the rest of the seeds in the ground, more time spent watering after the rainy season finally moves on, it’ll still be a wonder.

After all, gardening is optimism in practice, the garden, a living prayer. Every seed is a potential miracle. I may prepare the soil, bury the seeds, take care of weeds and watering, sprinkle a bit of this and spray a bit of that to prevent insect infestation, but everything else is out of my hands. The wind and weather. The way the seed germinates and grows. Or doesn’t. How much it produces. How the produce tastes… Those things and more are entirely beyond my reach. Which is why I believe no gardener is an atheist. The simple act of planting a seed in dirt is a nod to something greater than oneself. A higher power. From the spark of life to the intimate taste of a warm, sweet tomato, all requires something of the Divine.

Forecasters say there is a likelihood of more rain to come this weekend and early next week. I am glad. As folks around here like to say, no matter how much rain we get, we’re only two weeks away from a drought. The dusty dryness of mid- to late-summer will be here soon enough and these days, the wet ones we’re living now, will likely be recalled as pure heaven.