“Come over here for a minute, I want to show you something” – the most tantalising suggestion you can make to an almost three year old. I walk into the garden and she follows, humming to herself.
I stop and crouch down at a raised bed covered with straw, which I part to the side, looking for a tiny bright green rosette of feather like leaves. To my daughter’s delight, I dig my fingers into the earth and begin to twist and pull at some mysterious thing. I brush away the soil crystals and patiently twist a giant root until it gives a little, turning it out of the earth like a cork, until it emerges.
A parsnip, cream hued and vibrant, shaggy soil clinging to its lengthy taproot. Likely made lusciously sweet by its frigid slumber.
“Oh mama!” she exclaims. “Hooray for the carrot! We should eat it for supper tonight!”
I shake loose the earth and she carries it inside like a baby.
Back in Summer, I planted a dozen or so parsnip seeds. I took great care in germinating the seeds, yet only half of them sprouted. I cared for those plants through the Summer and into the Fall, watered them regularly and mulched them with seaweed and straw.
At times, I wonder why I spend so much time and energy nursing just a few plants, especially when you can buy root vegetables from a local farm market, where they are inexpensive and abundant.
Then, I am bestowed these moments.
When frost crept up in Fall, I left the parsnips in the ground and covered them thickly with straw – see what happens.
I tell my children that the garden is sleeping through the winter. The unyielding, frozen ground, shrivelled plants, debris of branches and hardened mud – it all appears so final and silent, a summer’s grave. Yet, beneath the earth, there is transformation, preservation, and magic.
So much goes unseen, so much energy pulsating beneath appearances.
And when frost retreats down into the earth, and the soil beneath us is released it beckons with its heady scent, and that energy and magic are released!
We extract it – this mammoth life force that requires muscle and yearning to unearth.
And this child, she grasps the sacredness of this act, the urgency and excitement of connecting with something so vibrant. Tonight! We must eat it right away!
And isn’t this the whole point? This is what we want for our children. If you plant one seed or a thousand, know that it matters. One seed, one plant, lovingly tended and harvested in a moment of attentiveness can teach and nourish in a way that nothing else can.
An act becomes an experience, an experience a memory, and memories become values and connections that can never be lost.
And in the present, we nourish our bodies and we EAT!