A dictionary of garden lessons today:

"I've been planting seeds," she said, "and not just of the garden variety." She pulled weeds from around roots as I sat on the perimeter and let tears rolls down my face, swiping them away with every statement of truth spoken. I am unabashed and free with my tears around her.

"Sometimes the roots go down really deep and you have to dig around, eventually just breaking them off sometimes so they can be transplanted." I nodded, knowing as well as she did that she wasn't talking about Late Blooming Raspberry Bushes.

Her knees are covered in dirt and there's a spot on her face. She swats at gnats intermittently and I continue to cry, and listen.

I ask hard questions like "Did you ever resent the call of God on your life? Want to settle for less, find yourself settling for less to evade the call?" She gives hard answers like "It's only time to plant the peas and a few other things now, we'll wait a bit to plant the rest."

Because we have to do things in order.

I repent for my unfaithfulness and discontentment. She leans back and says that a mother's heart always loves and always forgives, and always knows that the monster lurking on the surface isn't the real person inside. I turn my face and cry more, looking at the flat patch of dark earth beside me, knowing we see the seeds but only because we know they're there. To any other eye, though, it's a dark patch of earth.

We choose an apple tree and a cherry one, get a short lesson in small orchard care and drive toward home, the branches of our new purchases brushing our shoulders in the front seat.

"We're not planting this for us, you know," she said. "We don't plant fruit trees so that we get the fruit. You understand that right?" We are at the top of the hill, staring at the small plot we both call home. My eyes are on the small orchard to the left of the house, five fruit trees from a hundred years ago. They are old and gnarled, we love them for their shade and small tart apples in the fall.

She doesn't say it, but we both understand it: the fruit that we bear isn't for us; we're the tree, others are the recipients of our fruit.

She is leaving for an appointment and I sit inside the perimeter of the garden, pulling out a few more weeds, not necessarily of the garden variety, and pushing Early Blooming Raspberry Plants into the soft black earth. I am not so good at this gardening thing, this planting and waiting and knowing that I may never see taste and see, but I know how to tend. I know how to listen. And I know how to learn.

And I know a lesson when I hear one.

This year's garden at home. Awfully purty, eh?

May 2008