So it was early March, and suddenly I burst into the Christmas song "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." I couldn't get it out of my head. Why? I look forward to summer the way a kid looks forward to Christmas. Every day is a new present to open (or maybe it's more like an extended Hanukkah?). Starting with the first snowdrop bloom and continuing until the sound of the last cricket, this is my time, who I am, my happiness.
If you are reading this, you probably don't need any convincing. We live for the smell of fresh warm dirt and antique roses, basil on our fingers, and tomatoes in our harvest baskets (or aprons). The pure joy of lying on the fresh grass with the kids and pets, or eating a dinner made straight from the garden, seems enough to get me through another winter.
But with each summer that comes around, I also realize how precious each one is. I'm getting to that age where I'm starting to feel...like a gardening "expert" or something. (Can you tell I'm trying to find a more positive way to say "old"?) I can still remember when I was young and just starting out, and how often I was scared by a plant: What if I ate the wrong part of it and poisoned myself? What if it grew out of control and then I was stuck (let's just say that happened more than once). But with the years, what I lose in pure physical strength I gain in fearlessness and knowledge. I like to think I am just as strong as I was when I was 22 and moved a 250-pound maple tree from one location to another, hole-digging and all. And thanks to yoga, running, and cycling, I know I am strong. But let's be honest here. Things change.
But it's not all bad. One thing that changes about getting older as a gardener is that I am much more fearless. Try something new? Why not? What do I have to lose? Whether it's a new variety of vegetable or a new type of tool. At the same time, I also know what works and I'm sticking with it. I don't fear any peer pressure around having to have the newest new thing.
I'm trying to decide if I've become less fussy or more. But what's really happened is that I have the means to act on my fussiness. Last summer was the first summer in 35 years that I had consistent help in the vegetable garden. What a difference it made in my stress level! I know everyone can't be so lucky, but the person I found to help me had never gardened before in his life. So it's fun to teach someone else the joy of gardening.
I am definitely more determined to have fun and stop fighting nature. I have surrendered to her. Because we've all seen how relentless she is in her sweet, subtle, and completely stubborn way. I know when I'm gone I'm going to fade into dirt just like anything else that dies, so it takes lots of the pressure off trying to manage it all.
My goal is to keep enjoying each summer with the childlike pleasure of Christmas, no matter how old I get. After all, it's the most wonderful time of the year!
For more from Maria Rodale, go to www.mariasfarmcountrykitchen.com