In my first year of teaching thirty years ago, I had a principal who told us, “As long as you are teaching children, you should be learning something new. You must always feel and empathize with the kind of discomfort that comes with being new to something.”
I took her advice to heart, and for years I made sure I pursued new interests. The first 10 years or so, my New Year’s Resolutions included learning a new sport or game. I tried river rafting, golf, racquetball, distance cycling, and rock climbing. I took up new crafts beginning with quilting. I’d never played a musical instrument, and I eventually began music lessons on the hammered dulcimer. Just last year, I began playing the ukulele.
I no longer teach, but this year, for the first time since I was about 8 years old, I am gardening. I’m reading gardening books and taking classes. Digging holes and trenches. Planting seeds and seedlings. Asking gardeners and non-gardeners alike what to do about this or that.
The ambitions I have for my garden far exceed my skills and knowledge. I don’t think everything through. I’ve planted things in the wrong places–even after reading their sun and shade needs. I’ve used the wrong fertilizers. The birds I’ve attracted with bird food and baths eat the seeds I’ve planted instead of the seeds in their feeders. The oversights, mistakes, and occasional bad luck seem endless.
But this week, we have tomatoes. Tiny and green and filled with promise.
(The title for this post comes from the lovely When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons, by the extraordinary poet, Julie Fogliano)