We Have Planted more than a garden

by Will Baker


As I write, a gentle, much needed rain is falling this morning. It has been a dry spring here in Vermont. So dry in fact, that the Spring Peepers were late enough in coming that many thought that these amazing little frogs would fail to bless us with their song this year. But they came, and I can’t fault them for being tardy. In almost any seasonal wetland in the state these frogs can be heard, they are a sign of spring, and of rebirth and renewal.

It is late June and the mountain snow has left the higher slopes of the mountains. Folks have planted their gardens, even though there is still the threat of frost. Yes, it is almost July, yet in the evenings here, the thermometer can still sometimes dip into the low-thirties this time of year. My family planted our garden during the last weekend of May, and frost came twice since then, luckily not a killing frost. But others were not so lucky. There is a very ambitious gardener in the village that lost most of his non-hardy plants this year. There is a saying in this state…"if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes." This spring has demonstrated the validity of this old saw. Twice this spring it has been warm enough in the day that my family went swimming, but there was frost on the ground the next morning.

I enjoy the juxtaposition of the vagaries of the climate and the steady rhythms of life here. Folks have been tending to the chores of spring for generations, knowing full well that they really can’t depend upon the hand that nature will deal them. Planting a garden in Vermont amounts to an act of faith. Will our sweat and toil be rewarded by abundance enough to share with our friends and extended families, or will a killing frost render these efforts exercises in futility?

And I have planted more than a garden this year. My family was recently faced with a tough decision, do we leave this place and the people whom we have come to know and love, or do we stay and make a commitment. Well, we have decided that this is where we will make our stand. Along with our little garden, this year we have planted ourselves. And this is no less an act of faith than the one mentioned above. Will my family be blessed with that which is needed to grow and flourish? We have no way of knowing this…but we do have faith. The rain has stopped and the sun is shinning. Strong winds have blown the cloud cover away. It is a beautiful day. Vermont gardening.

There is another saying among farmers here: "there is no better fertilizer than a farmer’s footprints." To me this means that that which is planted must be revisited often. The garden must be nurtured and tended. It must be cared for with love. It seems to me that this applies to our lives as well. Hopes and dreams and aspirations must be revisited often lest we loose sight of the things that are really important to us. Commitments must be tended to as carefully as any garden plot. But as with gardening, there are no guarantees. But there is faith, and today is a beautiful day.


(Essay Collection)