persons, places and things: Back in the garden


By Barb Arland-Fye

With the sun’s rays gently warming my skin and highlighting the brilliant greens of spring, I knelt in the dirt of our new garden and planted tomatoes and peppers.

My 14-year-old son Patrick tilted the watering can toward each hole I dug so the tomato and pepper plants could soak the moisture into their roots as they settled in for the growing season.

I talked to the tomato plants and patted their leaves. I gave a pep talk to the peppers. I’ve always spoken to plants, hoping to love them enough so that they’ll bloom.

When we finished that part of the planting, I grabbed the heavy rake and moved mounds of soil to level the 10-foot by 20-foot garden in our front yard.


My arms ached from the labor, but it was a good sort of ache, the ache of accomplishment.

Then my husband, Steve, arrived with about a dozen packets of vegetable seeds: carrots, radishes, wax beans, cucumbers and zucchini.

Gladly, I let him take over the planting. He is, after all, the seasoned gardener.

I remember visiting him on his farm 25 years ago in the early months of our courtship. He had a large garden then — about 30 feet by 100 feet — in which to grow popcorn, zucchini, green beans, squash, asparagus and other vegetables. Steve likes to work the earth and to witness the plants rising. His dad liked to garden, too, and when he still lived in the area sometimes spent time working in Steve’s garden.

I don’t remember how much gardening we did in the early years of our marriage, but I do know we took a hiatus from it after moving off the farm and becoming preoccupied with our careers, church and civic obligations and raising a family.

A few years ago we started a garden along the back side of our house, but it was in the shade; the rabbits and deer snuck away with most of the bounty our garden produced.

Last year we didn’t plant a garden at all, but with the Catholic Church and society’s increasing emphasis on good stewardship of the earth we agreed it was time to turn our attention back to the soil.

Steve hired someone with a rototiller to cultivate an area to the front of our house for the new garden. Then Steve erected posts and fencing, which Patrick and I helped fasten into place on a picture-perfect Saturday afternoon.

A brief wave of guilt struck as I considered the chores, errands and other activities awaiting attention. But as I knelt inside that garden, I felt a sense of peace and contentment. It’s such a life-giving activity and makes me aware that God has given me this awesome responsibility of striving to be a good steward of his creation.

It’s easy to linger in this moment of pure bliss — when the weeds haven’t set in, the earth isn’t parched or soggy, and the heat and bugs aren’t annoying.

There have been other moments in my life like this, all of them outdoors, when I’ve dreamed of capturing their essence into a bottle that I can open again as needed.

God knows I’m not a master gardener, just a worker in the vineyard watching with appreciation as his garden grows.

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