Inventing Agriculture


Last year, in transit between one life and another, I didn’t have time or space or roots enough to create a vegetable garden.

 Oh, I could feel my sap rising.

 The urge is deep in my genes, my ancestral memory. I’m the first woman to drop grape seeds on the ground and make the connection when plants sprout.  While the men were out spearing mastodons, I was noticing that corn was growing from the band’s garbage heap. Aha. Put seeds in the ground, reap a crop. What a concept. 

But I didn’t plant anything in the small patch of  thin hard soil back by the pampas grass. Instead, I watched the purple wildflowers live, breed, and die, collected  the nasturtium seeds that rolled around in the driveway, and ate tomatoes bred for long-distance shipping.

 And when we found our house, it already had a raised-bed vegetable garden in a far sunny corner of the lot.  Kismet.

 So now, when I should be writing, or reading someone else’s manuscript, or teaching, I’m staring at the dirt measuring the progress of the Blue Lake stringless pole beans, wondering who is nibbling at the tiny leaves of chard and who stepped in the beet seedlings, asking the squash seeds why they haven’t germinated, and thinking maybe I should pinch off those little tomato blossoms.

 No, I decide, I’ll let the tomatoes make their own decision about the blossoms.

 The invention of agriculture takes patience, observation and respect.

 I stand there looking at the dark, soft dirt and I am so perfectly happy.



2 Responses

  1. Oh, yes, I hear you. I hear the call of the weeds even more. With all this rain, I have quite a crop. Weeds first, then I contemplate tomatoes and green beans.

  2. Beautifully said, Shelley–yours is a prose-poem. And here in Vermont we’re praying for rain. I’ll even smile at a couple of weeds!

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