Again, this isn't really just a hiking blog. That is no more true than right now. A family-wide Covid epidemic has left us isolated at home and sick as dogs. Thankfully, we are vaccinated. I actually had my second booster the day my wife started showing symptoms. Though that last shot turned out to be a couple weeks too late, I am glad for the other ones. Who knows how horrid it would have been otherwise.
Anyway, this hiatus from our usual weekend hiking expeditions has made me realize how important they are. The hiking part is important, sure. More important, however, is just being outdoors. Being cooped up indoors most of the time is exhausting more than any hike. It is why I don't like winter. You are either moving around skiing, snowshoeing or whatever or you are trapped at the office or the living room. It is hard to just sit. Drives me crazy.
So the past few days on into the weekend I am getting familiar with my garden. The garden is pretty much my project. My eldest son--who normally grows vegetables for a living--has customarily helped, but now he is on the Appalachian Trail. Middle son--who also grows veg--has no interest in more gardening when he gets home from work. Youngest son hates gardens and vegetables. My wife is content to let it be my project. This means it usually takes a back seat to hiking and any other free-time activities.
But here I am...sick. So the past few days have consisted of me planting, weeding, dividing, and harvesting...runny nose, startling hacking cough and all. Then, exhausted, I stumble into the shade with my coffee to stare at the garden while I plan my next project...once I catch my breath. My garden--two raised beds, an herb bed, and some old plastic planters--is not pretty. Even when everything is in peak season it has the look of an amateur. That said, it is important to me. It is another way to interact with nature. It is a way to touch the ground even in my imperfection.
Mid-plague when we were all falling apart and I couldn't walk more than a few feet my eldest bought me a little kneeler so I could weed the herb bed, which was all we had at the time. Then he lobbied me to buy myself the first raised bed. After the surgery on my back, he helped me put it together. It is a good memory in a dark time. I still couldn't walk much or well. Now, though, I could be outside with a reason other than feeling sad. Yeah, I had "outdoor office hours" during the plague and I am outdoors typing right now. Still, it was [and is] different when you are doing inside activities outside. My neighbors probably think I am total nerd for doing this...which I am.
The garden also gave us something to talk about. It wasn't that we lacked topics! Still, this one is different. It is about resurrection and growth. It is about getting better in spite of everything that holds us down. Now--while he is marching across Virginia--I text him garden questions and send him pictures a couple times a week. It is something to share other than mountain pics, which are a bit coals-to-Newcastle right now.
This week I divided the near-dead lavender. I hardened-off and planted some iffy pepper plants, basil, sage, fennel (for the flowers and the parasitic wasps that will make it home) rosemary and bush cukes. I made a tiny salad out of the greens that are coming up. I searched for and found a few reluctant perennials as they made their appearance, marking them off with parts of a pair of glasses I broke in my delirium. Then I wrestled with the mint. I have some spaces open for kale and eggplant and some empty flower pots still but--given my positive status--it is all over except the watering and weeding for a a couple more days.
Now it is getting hot. So here are some pictures of my ugly garden. The middle ones are from past years. The first and last are from this week, taken from the relative shade of the parsonage during coffee breaks. You can see the kneeler in its "banjo seat" position. May your encounters with Creation be good ones this weekend, whatever they may be.
I am a full-time pastor in a small, progressive church in Massachusetts. This blog is about the non-church things I do to find spiritual sustenance.