Hugh is 7 and a half months old and my garden is ripe within the heyday of summer. While both still require time and attention (more for the baby than the garden, obviously), lately the tide has shifted from constant analysis to moments of pure enjoyment.
Around this time each year, I have no choice but to shake free of the failures of my garden and enjoy the successes. It’s too late to replant a crop that didn’t work. It’s too late to fill in a gap in one of the beds. This year, my tomatoes, eggplant, and delicata squash are either fruiting or setting flowers, promising future harvests in weeks or months. The potatoes have flowered and the potato plants are beginning to wilt, sending their final bit of energy to the underground tubers. The basil is perky and richly green and the beans require constant picking. These are the highlights, and this year, more than any year in the past, I’m reveling in them.
Given the constraints in my current life—namely, time and energy—I had assumed that this year’s garden had the potential to become an added source of stress or, at the very least, an activity that added work and not joy.
Instead, Justin often proudly remarks that it’s the most productive and healthy garden I’ve (we’ve) ever grown. I nod and agree, with a sense of incredulity. When I look out from our front porch, frequently with Hugh bouncing on my lap, I see our largest raised bed flush with potato plants. These plants set their purple flowers a few weeks ago and I have plans to dig up some for new potatoes and leave the rest in the ground until the plants die back, dreaming of a root cellar (basement) full of storage potatoes this autumn. In front of that raised bed grows our lush, slightly wild, very colorful perennial shrub and flower garden.
“Good Baby”. I’ve heard and read these two words repeatedly since becoming a parent. Sometimes they’re strung together, as in, “Oh, he’s such a good baby” or “Is he a good baby?" Other times, the word “good” is used in different contexts, like “good sleeper". The questions and commentary may be well-intentioned, but each time I hear them, I’m swiftly hit with a deep feeling of sadness: the opposite of a “good baby” is a “bad baby", even if that phrase remains unspoken.
Bad baby? Have you ever heard such a sad and inappropriate phrase? Is a bad baby one that doesn’t sleep? Is a bad baby one that is vocal or is less than agreeable? Is a bad baby one that makes his needs known? To think about these innocent, literally just born, humans, in such a black and white way is shocking—until you realize that this is how most things are considered in our modern life, from babies to gardens to other interests and activities. After all, a good garden is one that produces gorgeous fruit and vegetables, and maybe even looks aesthetically pleasing. A bad garden is one that’s overrun with pests or blight or drought.