What does abundance mean to you?
What does an urban landscape filled with abundance look like?
Christy Lochrie says:
It’s a chilly fall evening. Equinox has passed. We’re on the downhill slide to shortened days and never-ending nights. It already feels like the rain has evicted the sun. Outside, the glow of streetlights, fast food signs and headlights reflect off of wet asphalt in wavy ribbons of light. But away from the slickened streets, that rain is nurturing the last of summer’s spoils and the beginning of fall’s crops, all to make way for an eventual spring.
I kept a community garden for the third year in a row and the darned thing was prolific, weeds included. And that, along with the pattering rain, is what I think to when I think abundance, which is what Warren Neth asked me to meditate upon for this article.
Gardening, for me, started in the backyard when I was about 10. My Dad, a Marlboro smoking, back-to-basics man, wanted me to learn how to grow my own food. The thought was foreign to me, a newly transplanted California girl who found herself living with a GI father in Clovis, NM.
Dad bought bags of cow manure for the soil. And, for good measure, I dumped my hamster’s cage lining -- wood shavings and droppings -- into the soil, too. (Note: I wouldn’t advise the hamster droppings these days any more than I’d recommend the plumes of chemical dust we sprinkled to still roving bug mandibles. It was a different era in the early 1980s.) We shoveled the soil. We turned it. We mixed it. We made rows. We planted seeds. The backyard vegetable garden that Dad and I planted grew. Up sprouted radishes, Swiss chard, carrots, bush green beans, tomatoes, leftover hamster fare (think alfalfa and other sprouts) and marigolds. The marigolds we planted both for the golden beauty of their blooms and, because Dad had learned, garden-nibbling bugs found them about as tasty as most of us find a spoonful of gravel. It worked. And came with a lifelong side effect: I feel suddenly 10 in the company of marigold flowers, especially the giant, Cracker Jack varieties.
For a kid who was accustomed to finding fruit and vegetables in cans in a big-box grocery store and thought of fresh food as encased in plastic, the garden was a backyard mystery. These little seeds that I planted, watered and – mostly – weeded around, grew into something that could be harvested, cooked, served on a dinner plate. I was intrigued.
By the time I grew up and left home, by then in Yucaipa, Calif., Dad had cobbled together rocks to make permanent garden beds in his half-acre backyard. He grew pole beans, bush beans, corn, tomatoes, onions, artichokes and more --all holding court with a peach tree, kumquat tree (it’s something of a miniature orange) and pecan tree. The crows mostly swiped the pecan harvest, much to Dad’s chagrin.
During my visits home, Dad and I talked while he watered, showed off his latest project and fawned over his garden. We picked green beans or corn or whatever was in season for summertime suppers. And in the winter and early spring, he poured over seed catalogs and shared his gardening plans for the year. Seeds from the previous year’s garden, meanwhile, were dried, cataloged and stowed. And, on occasion, some of those seeds were bestowed to me.
I still have seeds from what Dad called Radar green beans, a sort of bush green bean with long, thin pods that are succulent when harvested early. I grow and save my own Radar bean seeds now. And when I harvest and eat those green beans, I still think of Dad, his blue jeans, his cowboy boots, the sweat beaded on his brow while he worked during those summer days. I think of his soft voice when he described the tiny white flowers that would surely emerge on the plants. I think of his instructions to keep the plants picked clean to encourage a season-long harvest. And I remember those dinner table meals at the picture window that overlooked Dad’s backyard.
Dad died a little over a year ago. On a July morning, a few days after Dad’s death, I strode barefooted in my nightgown across the dew-heavy grass in his backyard to the peach tree that he had planted years before. I caressed a peach. It gave slightly under its fuzz-covered skin. Within moments, I had an armload.
A present from Dad, I told my stepmom. We sliced. Added cream. A dollop of sugar. And we ate the bounty. Remembering. The abundance.
by Christy Lochrie
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