It may sound odd, but I think my passion for gardening touches on the sanctity of life, extended to the plant world.
This spring I nursed kale seedlings so ragged and leggy that only a mother could love them. In June I wrapped cardboard casts around wind bent sunflower stems (and one who had a scrape with the hoe) until they were strong enough to stand tall. So, it should have been no surprise to me that when early blight struck my most productive tomato plants I felt the panic and frustration of a young emergency physician working triage.
It took me a while to realize that word, triage, could explain my feelings of the past few weeks. When my mind stumbled upon it as I was cutting up tomatoes into tiny fragments, sloughing off sections of brown mush, I immediately felt a burden lifted from me. Before then I had been in a state of plant emergency that my husband could not understand. When he asked for me for some potatoes, I looked at him as if he had said something absurd. Potato, a plant so obviously fine to be left in the ground a while longer, was last on my priority list. Harvesting a potato at that time would have been a kind of luxurious wastefulness that I associate with the likes of Donald Trump. There were beets growing overlong, lettuce going to seed, kale waiting in the cool sides of the garden like an elderly person at a bus stop, but most of all it was the 50 kilos of green tomatoes turning to deeper and deeper states of mush by the minute that made me most outraged by his request. I had to save the tomatoes. They were my patient in dire need,
I have had similar outbursts of feeling about plants before; the unexpectedly loud shout to garden visitors about not stepping on plants, my dark thoughts about killing squirrels, the rush outdoors to cover some seedlings from rain or frost, tucking them in to say goodnight. In this instance finding the right word was enough to make me feel less like I needed to control the situation and I could go about my task, still urgent, but unburdened by the weight of emotion.
How many times in our lives has finding the right word released us from its encumbrance?
The the power of a word revealed my passion for plants. Then I could harvest some potatoes for my husband, after all, he just wanted to make a dish with green tomatoes and potatoes. It was delicious.