In An Essay on Man, Alexander Pope wrote, “Hope springs eternal in the human breast.” We quote him all the time, and because we dare not do anything but hope, because it is easier than wearing ourselves out with despair, or because we are fools, we keep hoping. I hope that next year my democracy will be intact, the climate will not kill us all, wars and assassinations will go away, and people will be civil to one another. I hope famine and homelessness will abate. But more than all of those, I hope my family and friends will stop dying for a little while, if only so I can catch my breath. And in addition to all this, I hope my garden will stop being an unmitigated disaster.
Yes, I know. With all the woes in the world, I shouldn’t be moaning about my garden. But honestly, the thing that is supposed to bring me joy and respite from the weary world is making me unhappy. Now that the beds are put to sleep and any pots that can be have been moved indoors, it’s time to take stock. In the war to have a few fresh fruits, vegetables, and flowers, I’ve lost most of the battles. But I have arms and armor. I have the entire winter to lay out a plan. So next year….
I keep hoping that rabbit-proof fencing will spare the greens, that diligence will thwart the squash bugs, that drip lines will make up for a complete lack of rain for weeks on end. I hope the squirrels will find someplace else to dig than in my flower pots. I hope I can give my poor, sad lilies of the valley some friends to fill their bed. I hope the stressed trees and shrubs survive the winter, the perennials come back, and the invasive species stay dead.
Gardening is always an act of faith. We trust the the dead-looking seed really is waiting to burst into life. We believe dirt and water and time will make a little sprout peek out into the daylight and reach for the sky. I watch eagerly as blossoms appear and insects travel from one to another, dispersing fertility. Every spring–in fact, every winter after the initial disappointment of the fall has faded a bit–I am wildly, madly hopeful that the spring will be wonderful, the summer will be bountiful, the autumn will be a celebration of abundant harvest. I hope the frosts will end early and return late. I hope to can and freeze and cook for everyone I love. I hope to foist excess produce off on unsuspecting strangers.
So as we go into winter, I will lay out my battle plan for my garden. And I will vote in every election. I will reduce my carbon footprint. I will give plasma. I will donate to Harvesters and the DAV and anyplace else that is fighting to stave off hopelessness. I will speak out against hate and violence, and I will strive to be kind. Because just hoping isn’t enough.