Issue Date: July 1, 2005
From the Editor's Desk
'Things want to grow'
This time of year, when the heat begins to build and early green becomes deep, and tender shoots turn hardy, prompts a memory of my grandfather. He was a short man with a mild limp and an upper lip full of moustache, a straw version of a fedora covering his bald head, and I see him walking between rows of pole beans. He was an Italian immigrant who arrived here in the early 1900s. On the basis of a photograph, he sent passage for the sister of a friend he met here from the same region of Italy, and the two of them married within days of her arrival. They went on to raise nine children.
There was always, if memory serves, a large garden behind the farmhouse in southeastern Pennsylvania where they reared that family. And it seems, in my memory, that gardens have always been a part of things.
My father was an excellent gardener and his brothers still are. They have a nonchalance about it that can be unnerving to the new gardener, full of enthusiasm for precisely how things are done. They remind me of the German orchardist I once interviewed. When asked how he managed to produce such spectacular Winesap apples, he shrugged and said: Things want to grow.
Perhaps that was the allure. There was a nonchalance I experienced at some point in my life about families and gardens and the like. Things wanted to grow, and there wasnt an inordinate amount of fussing about exactly how. There was, instead, an easiness with it all, an understanding that in the matter of people and plants, not much could -- or should -- be done to rush things.
My own gardens -- they would make a crazy patchwork of sizes and shapes, successes and failures -- were always a point of contact with that easiness. I never expected much. At times the dirt patch presented itself as a place of retreat from a house crowded with four children and often their friends. They were always given a choice of seeds to help plant at the start and they were there for the picking at the end. One year the youngest asked me in all seriousness to plant tacos.
The garden could be a place of mild meditation or, at times, simply an adult version of the sandbox, where I mindlessly dug, expanding a row or two a year, and experimenting with new varieties of tomatoes or peppers or lettuce. More often than not, and not because of any particular skill on my part, things grew. As did the children.
The old man in my memory would certainly smile. He rarely appeared dissatisfied with life.
Sometimes it is good, isnt it, to simply pause and seek respite from the provocations of the day. For years Fr. Jeff Behrens has given us that kind of perspective at the start of the paper. His gentle meditations, gleaned from his own journey of faith, often coax us to see things a new way. His journey took an interesting turn recently when he made solemn vows May 29 at the Trappist monastery in Conyers, Ga. Prior to taking vows he made a retreat in the hermitage once used by Thomas Merton. In a note to friends, he wrote: May 29 is the Feast of Corpus Christi, the Body of Christ. I feel I have found a special place in that Body, which is the church, which is all of us. I want to thank you ahead of time for helping me find it. It is a good place to be.
-- Tom Roberts
National Catholic Reporter, July 1, 2005
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