(Host) This year commentator David Moats will have a small garden, but he still expects it to give him a big sense of satisfaction.
(Moats) I bought a nice little selection of herbs to plant out back. There’s a parsley plant, oregano, tarragon and thyme. And I have the rosemary, sage and lavender I kept over the winter.
It’s not much, but where I live now I don’t have much space for planting things. There’s the space by the back steps and there’s a little patch beneath the willow tree with too much shade. I can plant some greens there and a few tomato plants that don’t do so well without the sun.
Where I used to live I had room for everything. Lots of tomatoes and peppers, potatoes, corn, pumpkins, squash, lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets. I liked growing mustard greens, and I tried okra, which didn’t do so well, but which has a beautiful flower. Melons didn’t do so well, though I’m told if you plant the right variety, you can usually get some good ones.
But even with my little patch of herbs and my shady garden spot under the willow tree, this is a good thing to do. I mean good in a real basic way. It’s good. It’s one of those essential things.
There’s a feeling I get, whether I’m working in my big garden or my little garden, when I pause and I lean my arm on the end of my shovel, and I just look. There may not be much to see yet, just rows of newly planted seeds and plants.
Or the plants may have just come up, and I’ve spent some time on Saturday afternoon weeding between the rows. I pause and lean on the end of my shovel and I look. There’s a sense of satisfaction that must be one of the most elemental human experiences.
We all have our jobs and our families and the demands that we place on ourselves to do this and accomplish that. But when you lean on the end of your shovel and take a minute to look at the plants you’ve planted, all of that falls away. The sun is shining down, the soil is moist and brown, the leaves of the plants are rich and green.
There are hundreds of millions of people on this earth for whom this sense of gratefulness is more than nostalgia or a Saturday gardener’s brief indulgence. What comes out of the soil enables them to survive. That’s part of the satisfaction that comes from looking down at those small plants – knowing what you’re doing is as elemental as that, and even if you don’t depend on your harvest for survival, you can appreciate the goodness of it.
When you get down with your hands in the soil, and you’re putting your tomato plants in place or you’re patting down the seeds for a row of lettuce, there’s no ambiguity about it. You’re doing something with an almost biblical simplicity and goodness.
The planting is more satisfying in its way even than the harvest. The harvest is plenty good, of course, especially a sun-warmed, juicy tomato that’s bursting from its skin. But I’ll get my oregano and thyme and rosemary and parsley and tarragon and sage in the ground, and I’ll lean on the end of my shovel. And that will be that, and that will be good.
This is David Moats from Middlebury.
David Moats is the editorial page editor for the Rutland Herald and winner of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. He spoke from studios at Middlebury College.