Hot and humid, weeding the garden, the sweat formed in droplets on my forehead and on my back. Rivulets were running off my nose and unseen ones disappeared into the back of my shorts. The sun beat down and as I pulled nutgrass and patriot weed I noticed what was left of my tomatoes. They had rotted and spoiled in the dirt. I picked up a handful of soil. Tiny tomato seeds mixed with the sandy loam and as I ran it through my fingers the fetid smell of what was left of the viney fruit surprised me. Small bugs, centipedes and worms hurried back into the dark underground as I tossed the last bit back to the ground.
The smell should have been unpleasant but it wasn’t. Dirt smells good anyway you cut it, but the added aroma of vegetable garbage, much different than the acidy fresh fragrance of spring tomato vines as you move past them, made me think.
I lay back on the ground as a white, fluffy cloud momentarily blocked the sun. A vapor trail blazed across the sky and a hummingbird flitted past, its unique bird voice familiar at the farm. I felt the ground beneath me and imagined all that lived there now and would sprout on it’s own this summer. I thought some more. I thought about this summer.
I nearly circumnavigated the globe this summer. I did so hurling around the thinner part of our atmosphere at 5oo mph or so. At any one time I had a smart phone, and iPad and a laptop with bluetooth or wifi connections that kept me instantly conversational with my family and my work or anyone else I cared to talk to on Earth. While I was traveling, nearly circling this planet in 36 hour of flight time, a man made spacecraft was also hurdling towards a complicated landing on our sister planet Mars and another spacecraft, one whose memory bank is less than my thumbdrive, old by spacecraft standards, was flirting with the plasma at the edge of our solar system.
And here I am, a tiny little speck of living carbon, laying on the dirt in Hempstead, Texas.
I should be surprised at the digital age I live in. But laying there in the dirt, it hit me: no matter how savvy we get in marshaling bits and bytes of information so that the world is at our fingertips, someone still has to farm. Somebody has to grow things for us to eat. People on the planet still have to till the land, plant the seed, pull the weeds, and pick the fruit. And plan for the next season. Everywhere I went this summer, the necessity of a world that gardens was obvious. In Israel they grew everything from cotton to dates, tomatoes, okra, and peppers, corn and rice. In Japan there were fields of rice, wheat and barley, beans, peas, and onions.
Everywhere on the planet, people are growing things they need; in groups, for families, or in large agricultural companies.
No matter the scale, its a need that the human population has as a requirement for existence.
It’s a grand requirement.
As wonderfully smart as we all are, nothing, still nothing has trumped the ancient, wondrous invention that is the sole dominion of plant life. That is the storing of a blazing sun’s energy in the very fiber of it’s planty self with nothing more than water and some carbon dioxide.
Our world is nourished by them.
The sun no longer blocked, I grabbed my hoe, donned my gloves and started on another row.
It’s a fine job, this gardening/farming thing.
Fifty Shades of Brown.
Chapter 1 coming soon.