Monday, September 8, 2014

Teachable Beans

This weekend, the green beans started coming in.

I'd planted them two months ago, a humble batch of bush-beans in the patch of garden by my driveway.  It was the same place I'd put 'em in last year, and had decent luck with them.  I'd put in about thirty seeds last year, all from one of those little packs of Burpee seeds in the supermarket.  Of those thirty, twenty three had yielded.  Of those twenty, about a dozen were really, really productive.

I'd seed-saved from last year's crop, meaning this year there was no buying of seed at all.  Everything that went in sixty days ago had been grown in my garden the year before.  No packet from Burpee.  No ordering online.  These plants were the children of the plants that fed my family last year.

Or rather, they were the children of a select group of those plants.

Last year as the season wore on, I looked for the strongest and most vibrant plants in the garden, those dozen high-producers.  I watched as some of them came up, short and stunted and yielding only a couple of beans.  I watched as others arose, large and vibrant and thick with delicious dinners-in-the-making.

On each of the strong ones, I marked several beans with tape.  I didn't pick them, but let them grow to fullness, then brown up and harden into a seedpod.  I collected those seeds in a jar.  It only seemed fair, given those plant's efforts on our behalf, that I should look out for their kids.

This season, I put in forty plants, all from the seeds of last year's most vibrant plants.  I lost only two to marauding bunnies.  Almost all of them were as strong and vibrant as their parents, and the garden exploded with life.

"Wow, those are growing fast," my wife said, as we came back from the beach.  She was right.  The plants were noticeably stronger this year.

Friday, I picked about a pound and a half from the patch, and then picked another pound and a half Sunday afternoon after returning from church.  Fresh, organic, and delicious.  We've got plenty there, and plenty coming.

It's what human farmers have done for millennia.  We look to the strong and the productive, and we attend to those plants that are the most vibrant.  We look to the places of health and strength for the seeds for the next harvest.

Here, there's a lesson for faith.

Gardens can teach us how to tend our own souls, and where we put our energies in life.  So much of human life is poured into our weaknesses.  We carefully tend the places of pain, opening and reopening wounds.  We water and nurture the fever of our angers and resentments, and the harvest we yield is predictably stunted, year after year.

We should, instead, look to those times of grace, love, laughter, and forgiveness.  These are the places in us that we should tend, carefully.  We should carefully mark the seeds of those times, collect them, and plant them whenever the time is right.

Even the simplest of God's creatures has so much to teach us.