This is my least favorite part of gardening.
Of the probably one hundred beet seeds, ninety five have sprouted. Of the likewise one hundred carrot seeds, there are, at quick glance, ninety plants accounted for in this patch. Of the fifty radish seeds (and mind you, while mine is an organized creature there is no time spent counting seeds as they fall out of the packets) there are probably seventy plants (and one zucchini plant that seeded, randomly in the midst, due to our little one grabbing a handful and dropping them as he ran through the still unplanted soil). The math of nature, is, of course, far different from the math of humankind.
You see, there is no kindness in being the one, tasked with thinning the plants, to decide who shall live and who shall die. There is no kindness at all.
There has always been a trouble in this, and though it has been nearly a decade since there was space (both physical, yes, true, land to be tilled can sometimes be at a premium in this age of suburban golf-course lawns being all the rage...as well as time accrued in one place so as not to be in the track of Kerouac come said harvest), the mental state and feelings on the matter, have not changed all so much.
Who am...better yet...How is...one to make such choices for another?
The Nazi regime would, in the death camps, play "games" such as the "five game". Line up the prisoners, walk down the line, counting...one, two, three, four, pull the trigger...one, two, three, four, pull the trigger...this is why you'll never catch these hands and lips pointing and counting people. (And as this is a heightened and touchy metaphor, set deeply in the engrained solitude of a coarsening age, you see here - explained flatfootedly - that it is not really of plants we are speaking at all)
Ought it be random then - or maybe chosen by location, right place at the right time, fate sealed when seed falls from the hand or is placed by fingers in a divot that is naught more than a grave shaped in neat rows (which is not a shape in which nature comes naturally)? The karma of a sprout, deciding without doubt, whether this lifetime would be fit to bear out fruit?
Should we go with survival of the fittest? Down on hands and knees, eyes examining the density of the stalk, the broad of the leaf, the depth of the red, the greenery of the stem, the fleetness of foot of the runners of roots?
But then, must we ignore the one who might be runt if only because its neighbor is casting shade? Or where the soil sat a bit tall and the water conversely ran this and that and rarely down to touch the tap? Or simply because the rate of growth for one is not that of another or all?
And so, the solution at hand...
Since the garden here can grow only limited by the give of the foot-on-spade, the take of back-can-lift, as sod becomes clod unto the face of god or goddess or to whomever one sings as they turn soil to sun (how does your garden grow - without the eggshells or chemical smells so that puppy dog tails keep a-waggin)...
The solution, then, is to thin each pack of plant and replant each by each in rows and columns regardless - discarding none. Who is left rooted and who is re-rooted is, more I-ching, than calculated.
So, side by side, the strong and the struggling are lifted and returned to the soil, each by each a hole dug, stones bucketed, a root slotted, soil replaced, patted, pushed, pressed, steadied, and a plant stood tall - if but for a moment.
If these grow half as well as they look then we (which includes our neighbors, and our neighbors' neighbors - re-read "Rabbit Hill" by Robert Lawson - if you do not recall that "There is enough for all" - said the new people in the big house to the animals in the woods) will feast. Do you like zucchini? We'll have a bushel or two to spare.
But there is a long time until the summer passes and we find out whether all this work becomes food. That's one of the major draws to gardening - the patience, the meticulous care, the need to attend and assist regardless of mood or schedule or state of mind. Meditative, and full of memory of what this land must have known one hundred years ago on every misty June morning. Yet, this, is too far a digression...
As each row completes, the sun passes, the night rises, and the putter of six o'clock turns into the slight rush of seven, and the not-even-close-to-done quickening of eight pm and nightfall.
Night will become day and become night and the cycle will pass days and weeks...and for some the transplant shock will be too great and they will wither. For some it is expected that there will be great fruit and such will play out to fruition. Yet others, those who could have been easily discarded...with just a little tlc, a little more attention to the firmness of the soil, a bit more of a touch, they too will learn to stand under their own power, rise tall and flower, and send their runner's root around tomato and eggplant and say thank you with a cucumber so juicy, that no store bought, winter refrigerated, cross-country trucked fruit, could match.
And it is for these latter cases that the sunrise-mud-boots and soaked-jeans-cuffs are made worthwhile.
For to steward life through, no matter the odds, is a learned task. To want to steward life through, comes from the inherent compassionate gene that resonates in all creatures, yet at a particular key with which not all have learned nor choose to sing harmoniously. But, to want little more than a chance? Well, that is something instinctual that no scalpel can remove. What's more is that once the opportunity is provided, the sky is not the limit but yet another road toward the destination of a life that begets something so much greater than we each thought, nay dreamed, we'd ever know.
It is said that every creature, whether they are apt to realize it (rather, admit it aloud) or not, really seeks little more than love. Pausing here one might add that to find love, once needs the chance to live, no matter the odds, no matter the cost. A chance. An opportunity. Is it enough, then? Suppose that's for each to answer. Yet, maybe, it's a perspective we ought keep close. Each dawn arises, we think of the clean slate, tabula rasa, ultima thule...and realize we've got yet another day to make ourselves proud. And to change the world. Hopefully, always, all ways, for the better.
It is a fine place to begin.
So we begin.
And thus, a seed, is planted.
(Figure a column every two weeks or so...we'll not set a particular day for now...at least not until the rhythm of the pen kicks back in properly. But in these words above, likely all the gist is there - albeit the language will often vary in fruit and flowering)