Her therapy is sinking her hands into the fertile Earth. She digs in the dirt, releasing the stresses of life into it as she tends to her plants. It’s an unending job but one she finds fulfillment in doing well.

In the Spring seeds are buried in freshly plowed ground. She watches over them, babying along the seedlings once they push through the Earth, minding them as she would her children. The life or death of the sprouts is in her hands as she gently thins and separates them after their second set of leaves unfurl. The larger, stronger seedlings are transplanted, the weaker ones left to flourish or perish on their own. Those which survive are planted while those which die are composted to become fertilizer for the next crop.

In the Summer the work becomes harder. She wages a constant battle against elements that can overwhelm or damage them so she must be vigilant in her caretaking. She talks to them, protects them, and does the best she can to raise them right. She guards them against things that can destroy them before their time. Mesh sleeves are slipped over the fruit to keep out worms, slugs are baited with traps filled with yeast, rodents are suffocated in their dens with carbon monoxide pumped from the exhaust of the tractor, rabbits and deer are kept out by good fencing. Plants are always lost and she mourns each one but celebrates those which continue to grow and thrive. The joy is in seeing them develop and blossom.

Autumn brings the rewards of her work. She brings in the harvest, picking and cutting the fruits of her labor. She finds satisfaction in consuming, canning and freezing the produce she raised and tended over the year. There is happiness in releasing her creations out into the world for others to see and enjoy. There is satisfaction found in witnessing things grown by her own hand reach their full potential.

In winter she collects the seeds from the plants left in the field, wondering what will germinate in the Spring and how cross-pollination will affect next year’s crop. Some seeds regress, producing something that is older than the original seed, but the ones which evolve, which create something new and beautiful, that is one of the greatest pleasures of being a gardener.

As she lays down her tools and rests after a life of hard work, she’s content with what she’s brought forth into the world. She closes her eyes, knowing the death of one thing means life for another. And she’s reassured by the fact that there will always be work to be done in the garden.

Impatiens growing in the shade of a rotting log

Photo Credit: V. R. Roadifer

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