The Man Born to Farming
by Wendell Berry
The Grower of Trees, the gardener, the man born to farming,
whose hands reach into the ground and sprout
to him the soil is a divine drug. He enters into death
yearly, and comes back rejoicing. He has seen the light lie down
in the dung heap, and rise again in the corn.
His thought passes along the row ends like a mole.
What miraculous seed has he swallowed
That the unending sentence of his love flows out of his mouth
Like a vine clinging in the sunlight, and like water
Descending in the dark?
Coming home from work on this exceptionally clear day, I caught my first glimpse of Mount Rainier since moving here, which I took as a good omen. So I planted my first seeds of the season this evening. The garden is not mine but my aunt’s, so the usual anxieties—are they good seeds, is it too early, will it frost?—are compounded by the desire to demonstrate the hue of my thumb and a guest’s impulse to leave the borrowed soil in better shape that I’ve found it.
Maybe I am still too young of a gardener to be able to instinctively trust, because I still doubt that the seeds will germinate and send their little green bodies into the sunlight, that the plants’ true leaves will replace the cotyledons and grow sturdier until the plant becomes—always miraculously—food.
But the rational part of me insists that they will, just as it reminds me that the tender shoots that will appear in straight rows in a week or two will grow unruly, will eventually stop producing, will bend and break and finally be added to the fetid pile of compost in the corner of the garden. So don’t get too sentimental when those little radish shoots peek out in a week, my rational half says.
I find I dislike my chiding rational half’s intrusion into the garden. I’d rather train my instincts like I trained the arms of the raspberry bushes onto their supports last week, not only to trust that the seeds will grow but also to rejoice at their life and their death and their resurrection.