I’m drinking my coffee, looking out at morning sun over vineyard rows, the symmetry and orderliness calling to my soul.
What is there about farming that sings to me? I don’t have any real ambition to work the land, to tend crops or fret about the impact of weather on harvest. But there is something there.
I think it’s the heritage of my grandparents, farmers all, at one point or other in their lives: tied to the soil, to the rhythm of seasons and the cycle of labor, prepare, plant, nurture, harvest, rest.
My grandmothers were gardeners. They were primarily gardeners of vegetables, real food. One of them also raised chickens, and the other was an avid flower gardener, in addition to the plants she grew for food.
They worked hard. As a kid growing up, I had the luxury of helping on the fringe, shelling peas or some other child-friendly task. I wasn’t out doing the real manual labor.
I got to enjoy the bounty. My grandmothers’ tomatoes and corn, peas and butter beans, strawberries and cucumbers were all features of their summer tables, in fresh-from-the-field dishes. Canned and frozen versions appeared in the fall and winter months. Pickles, jams, and all things good lined their shelves and filled their freezers.
In my childhood home, gardening wasn’t a hobby, it was a necessity.
I wish I could say I learned this skill from these women, but I didn’t. At the time, I was too young, and later, too busy, to value the knowledge and the work of putting food on the table the old-fashioned way. I thought, in some place in my younger-self brain, that growing your own food wasn’t glamorous. It was too lowly. It wasn’t where I would put my efforts. Give me a nice clean grocery store, vegetables and fruit clean and neatly arranged in artistic rows.
No sweat and dirt for me, thank you!
Now I look out over these rows and I’m wistful. I wish, sometimes, I could be still long enough to see a season through from the planting to the harvesting. I wish I could know the satisfaction of raising my own food. I look back at the women of my youth and I appreciate them in a different way. They were hard workers, and they were so knowledgeable. How did I miss that? How could I think that because they weren’t well educated in a formal sense that I couldn’t learn from them?
I don’t know that I ever really thought that. But I demonstrated it. I didn’t try to learn what they knew. I took it for granted, and shelved what I saw into the category of “nothing I’ll ever need to know.”
I wish I could go back and sit with them, appreciate them from an adult point of view. I wish I could tell them how proud I am of them, how inspired I feel by them. Knowing, as I know now, more about their lives, how hard they worked, how selflessly they gave.
I look out over the rows and I feel it, the call to my blood. Is it some sort of genetic memory? I don’t even know if such a thing exists, or if I believe in that. But something pulls. Maybe it’s just nostalgia for connection to the land that I used to have, through them.
Maybe it’s knowing I missed chances, and I don’t want to do that anymore.
My grandmothers knew I loved them. I said that, many times. But I don’t know if they knew I respected them. I’m not sure I did, as my younger self. I didn’t think of them in that way. But now…now, I wish I could tell them that.
I respect them for the love they showed, for their work, for who they were in their time of life. Their lives were so different from mine. But finally, looking out over the vineyard, I know that’s not important.
What is important is that they lived their purpose, and planted a heritage.
And I thought they were just planting vegetables…