Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Just a bit of fun, really

Lately, I've been thinking about this garden's role in my life. It can bring great satisfaction as I feed my family or spend time with Lu pottering about. But it also brings frustration and worry. I sat on my haunches (core muscles tightened, mindful of posture), weeding the cabbages and swearing quietly at the effects of the incursions of moths, slugs and snails and sundry other bug types. Again and again I worked through how to save the crops and the quandry of the timing of the green manure (before or after the Brisbane trip?; lupins or rye?; here, there or here and there?). I worried about the jobs that need to be done: corn stalks to be mulched, lucerne to be composted, slugs to be hunted and squashed, seeds to be collected, on and on and on. Plus, I want to get out and womble around, finding pine cones and twigs for the fire (Al laughs at these efforts but he's never needed to chop kindling in five degrees and sleet; pine cones save work in the long run, I'm thinking). There are days - many days - when the to do's overshadow the joys of this place.

But it's all a bit silly, really. As meaningful and valuable as my garden is, it is a luxury, a hobby, and most definitely a choice. It's good to have the excess tomatoes chutneyed but we won't develop scurvy if those jars are empty. I allowed zucchinis to grow to frightening proportions and hid the evidence in the compost heap rather than chop them up and be thankful they could feed us for so many meals. Really, if the cabbages fail the only damage is to my pride, and I'm better for a few of those beatings. My worries add a little suburban spice to a very comfortable life. After all, we all need trials to make a story out of.

I'm trying to be mindful of my good fortune, particularly today, on Anzac day. I'm a teary kind of a person, and the marches and ceremonies and the sad, sad bugles make me cry. I cry because I am so sorry so many people - not just Australians - have been caught in the maelstrom of war. And I cry from a full heart as I think of how lucky I am. My childhood rang with my father's gruff "You don't know how lucky you are" as he countered our complaints about the deep injustices of childhood (lollies only once a week!; bed at 8pm!; wearing a singlet!) but by golly, he was right. I garden because I want to, not because I'm digging for victory. I don't need to rip up the flower beds and plant potatoes. I don't wait on a crop knowing it will tip the balance between health and hunger for me and my girls. And most importantly today, I know where my husband is, I know he's safe and I'm not dreading word that he isn't.

So I'd like to acknowledge the people in my family who not so long ago faced a very different life: Grandad, who was never quite the same after the war, and Grammy and Mum who lived with this; Uncle Pat, whose dead friends marched along with him on his benders, and Aunty Eileen, who served and lived with Pat's pain; Uncles Billy and Hugh, who worked in munitions. As I gardened today I thought also of my father's family, who as German immigrants were saved from WW1 internment only by their necessary farming. I also think of the other branch of my father's family, on the other side of the world, who became refugees as the Red Army advanced and whose gardens and houses and homeland no longer exist.

The stories of my family are little histories, each unique and each standing for the larger events we read in books and watch on SBS documentaries when there's nothing else on. They have allowed me to transcend my own privilege and enter, briefly and imperfectly, into the fear and pain of others' lives, and this is a humbling gift. Tough times and tough people. Although, really, not that tough - just ordinary folks like me. And I'm thankful that so far in my life - and I hope, always in my life - the garden's just a bit of fun.

Eating - thankfully - from the garden: chives, parsley and the girls' eggs, uninspiringly scrambled; pak choy, steamed with sesame and soy sauces and rice wine vinegar, accompanying chicken and pumpkin laksa. Plus, rhubarb to eat with cream while falling just a little more in love with Alan Brough(?) on Spicks and Specks tonight.


Janet said...

I often think of my Nan when I garden and although in the end she gardened for pleasure, it wasn't always that way. It also gives me a feeling of security knowing that if I had to really supplement feeding my family from the garden, I'd have an idea of where to start. Hopefully we'll never be in that situation, but nontheless I think it's important that this knowlege is kept and used, not just known by big agribusiness. phew, that was a bit of a rant, but I think gardens are important. Even shambolic ones like mine.

Anyway, I'm going to try and do better with vegies this year...

Kris said...

I think this is really true. I feel that I'm giving Lu a real gift, teaching her how this fast fading skill. Heaven knows, I'm hardly the survivalist type, but it's good to know how to do things. And yes, it provides an alternative knowledge that pushed by the big boys.

VictoriaE said...

I was so embarassed to have tears in my eyes at the Anzac Day service in our town yesterday. Not that's its anything to be embarassed about. My grandfather was a p.o.w for three years in WW2 and the biggest joy in his life now is his garden.