Gardening, as a teenager, was a form of punishment in my world. Go weed; that was the solution to myriad of misdeeds and nefarious activity. While this may not seem like much, please note that my mom was the proud owner of a garden that was a full acre of land. Google that if you aren't familiar. An Acre. This was coupled with the fact that during my teen years, I walked beans for a farmer (google that, too), so the last thing I wanted to do on my free time was get out in the dirt and pull even more weeds thankyouverymuch.You would think that, given all of this data, I would have been a child who required no punishment. Knowing the punishment is the best form of behavior modification, right? (said no one who has actually met a human being before)
Plus, mom was 'organic' before 'organic' was a phrase. We didn't use artificial anything. Weeds were removed with fingers, not a convenient squeeze trigger containing toxic warfare. Bugs and animals were kept at bay by a copious, ridiculous, inconceivable amount of Marigolds. The Farmers Almanac (did you know they have a website? wicked cool.) told mom that these stinky little flowers were the natural way to solve all of your light farming needs. Hysterical.
So it was roughly 187 degrees out one July in Illinois, and I was weeding. No, I don't remember what I did wrong, but I'm fairly certain I'm innocent of all charges, fyi. Anyway, I complain out loud about the crazy amount of stinky orange flowers EVERYWHERE. Don't know why we have them in a vegetable garden anyway this is the biggest waste of my time and they probably cost to much to buy and no one likes them and it's so hot out here.
She says to me "They are just like people, Heidi. Marigolds are just like people. You can dismiss them, if you like, but they have hidden blessings." Whatever like I need some deep morality lesson or peptalk stupid flowers are not people and I'm really hot out here. "If you just treat them with decency, they will pay you back tenfold. Just take care of them as much as you can, give them the basics and they will pay you back". Whatever no plant will pay you back and they are not like people and it's still crazy hot out here. "Look, look right here. See this flower? She's near the end. She's old, a bit dried up and laying down on the ground. But I made sure she had what she needed, water, no weeds, space. And now she's ready to give back. I just did a little bit for her, and now she is going to give me tenfold what she has". Whatever you don't get things back when you do things this is a ridiculous conversation and I'm really hot.
Mom takes the little old dead flower and rubs it a bit in her palm. There, in her hand, were about 30 little black-tipped remnants of what the plant used to be. "What does this look like to you?" And, of course, they were seeds. She now had more than she needed to start more flowers, and store them for next year. She hadn't bought flower in years, she just took care of that which she had been given and her acts were rewarded.
So there you have it. Marigolds = people. I've seen it now, of course, many times over. When I am completely exhausted and don't think I have the heart to talk to one more person about their new diagnosis- coach a friend on what cancer feels like-can't muster the heartache that will come after talking to a husband about his dying wife - I do it. I do it because Mom told me that if you do the smallest things, they can grow to become even bigger good things. Paying it forward is something for which I strive every day.
And this photo? It's my sons hand. He goes to the garden every day. He looks for the old, dried Marigolds that have spent their wee lives keeping away animals and insects, and gently rubs them on his palms. He keeps the seeds in little packets for next year. And his grandma is smiling at him, I just know it.
ps. It's still really hot outside. :)