Gardeners! Were you humbled this year by failures in your garden? Were you “brought low”?
In the Magnificat, Mary, quoting her foremother Hannah, affirms some startling news. The Lord has scattered the proud, has brought the powerful down … has fed the hungry with good things. She said “has”, not “might” or “will”. Was she a dreamer or did she see a good future as already accomplished?
The Lord “favoured her lowliness”. Mary was expecting and expectant. (Grammar trivia: Latin verb for “to wait” is exspectare and for “hope” is sperare.) If you have travelled in the Spanish-speaking world you will have learned that hope and wait are the same word, esperar.)
The year 2022, challenged the confidence of gardeners in the diocese. First the seemingly endless Spring rains rotted seeds and washed away seedlings. If the seeds did germinate, they failed to thrive and ended as compost. Wet conditions caused a failure of pollination. In the micro climate of the street where I live, no fruit in the orchards. Raspberries flowered but failed to set berries. Though late, pole beans put out vigorous leaf growth but plentiful bean flowers produced only a few wispy beans. Shall I go on with this lament?
Most parishioners (not all!) can afford to buy vegetables and fruit. It was not a personal disaster like that of berry farmers in the Sumas valley. (Will we ever forget the atmospheric rivers of the Fall of 2021?)
And then drought. I pride myself on humus-rich soil that can hold moisture. September, I was watering morning, noon and evening. That’s nothing compared to the plight of salmon trying to get up the nearby creek to spawn.
This Fall we heard several Lectionary reading from Jeremiah. He spoke of a time when God’s people, weeping, will be consoled. They would be radiant over their harvests of grain, wine and oil. Their lives would become like watered gardens. Was he a dreamer, giving voice to the universal longing for safety and prosperity?
Was that promise fulfilled? How much rain will come next Spring and what about increased drought? I know well what the science says. We all do.
When I feel despair, I search seed catalogues for varieties that can withstand extreme temperatures. I learn how to hand-pollinate blossoms with Q Tips. My plan is to xeriscape the borders where annuals used to go. Wait and see, wait and pray, wait and hope. It’s not just about the gardens in my own block, not just about this diocese.
Tough skinned tomatoes were a bit tasteless, but the twice-flowering delphiniums were a delight. How about a new practice? Gardeners love to talk to other gardeners. Instead of notes of dread, let’s talk about all the good things that did come from farms and gardens this year. Praise the volunteers who carried, trucked, and carried salmon to the spawning beds. Save and share the seeds and cuttings of good plants. Make compost, make some more. Wait and hope are one shared state. Call to mind the vision of expectant Mary, and of Jeremiah’s assurance.
I planted lavender between the raspberry canes and agastache under the bean trellis. Bzzz bzzz.
Not fatalism, not optimism, let’s drop doom saying and learn the vocabulary of expectancy. Espero, I wait, I wait for, I hope.
Q Tips anyone?
Hannah Main-van der Kamp gardens in Powell River. She is a parishioner at St David and St Paul, where a parish Pollinator Friendly Plant project is in the works.