Too small, too big, just right
Today the kids and I harvested the last offerings of the garden. We pulled all but the tiniest carrots, which we decided to pry out of the frozen ground on Thanksgiving day. Col ripped off the outer purple cabbage leaves which the caterpillars had turned to lace and fed them to our chickens, wriggling, neon green caterpillars included. Rose helped me pull dusky green leaves off the stout kale plant that is as old as her, 2 years now, and just like a second child, grows strong and sturdy in the shadows while everyone fusses over a cherry tomato.
With most of the garden already cleared out, this year’s garden failures caught my eye like a flirtatious wink. Some of the carrots had grown so big they split at the seams, opening up their flinty orange innards to slugs and potato bugs. Meanwhile, some of the cabbage heads were so small that after taking up a square foot of garden space for 5 months, they could disappear into one family meal. And then there were the cucumbers—shriveled and blackened now—which I fussed and fretted over all summer long. Gritting my teeth in July, I pulled all the gorgeous magenta cosmos that cast a scalloped shadow on those cucumbers, and still not a single fruit grew on the stunted vines.
But today, with gold leaves fluttering through the flawlessly blue October sky, I felt the relief of letting go of failures, and of gratitude for simply the act of growing food. I imagine this is what parents feel thumbing back through the pages of their lives after their children are grown. So many seasons have come and gone that regrets fall away like baby teeth, and what shines is the love, the effort and simply the act of growing children.