May 23 • 05:13 PM

More than produce can be harvested from the garden

September 29, 2010
Working with our hands…getting dirt under the fingernails…reaping a harvest. So much of the allure found in gardening comes from the physical labor it requires. At least that's the attraction for those of us with desk jobs. After spending eight hours with a phone and keyboard as my constant companions, nothing sounds better than bending and flexing muscles other than my sore fingers.

Giving my glutes a workout lets my brain take a respite, of sorts. Without too much thought, I just tackle whatever's in front of me that needs attention. It's a wonderful way to clear the mind and relax. I nudge my mind to wandering. Often, I think about my grandfathers and the smell of a greenhouse and taste of a carrot. I think of my grandmothers too and their favorite flowers…anything red. I recall the summer I cut spinach and weeded onions for Tanis's and the others I spent planting shrubs and flowers for the Ganstines. If I'm in a different mood, I reminisce about college and that kind of lifestyle that seems so foreign now.

Eventually, my thoughts turn to the day that just enfolded and I start to analyze -what I did wrong, what I did right and what I should have done. I mull over the things I read, watched or heard, from news headlines to recipes. I might be far removed from words and sentence structures when I'm on the lawnmower or elbow-deep in applesauce, but doesn't it figure…that's when I get some of my best ideas for columns and stories.

With each passing season, I better understand the life lessons that so many wise people pluck from nature. It's no wonder that sermons and children's books are framed around the parables apparent in our gardens, farm fields, barns, orchards, pastures and woods.

While peeling apples last week my thoughts turned to the unexpected bounty our one and only tree on the farm was giving us. Other than an extensive pruning job two years ago, I've done nothing to coax a crop from it. But here it is, showering us with bushels of nice-sized apples. They're not 'pretty' but it's easy to eat around the bumps. Although simple, that tree got me thinking about grace and the human and godly examples I witness. As a big fan of fairness, the idea that I did nothing to deserve the fruit makes me marvel at the love and compassion I receive from others and God.

I might never become the best green thumb out there, but I'll keep playing in the dirt if it means I can reap some needed insights.

Maria Brown joined the Tri-City Times staff in 2003, the same year she earned a bachelor's degree in English from Calvin College. Born and raised in Imlay City, she now resides north of Capac where she enjoys working on the farm, gardening and reading.
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