Yesterday, Oklahoma broke its personal record for the most consecutive days over the 100 degree Fahrenheit mark. So, yesterday when I was checking my garden I looked at it long and hard and thought to myself:
“Okay, tomato plants…are you going to make it ’till fall so you can produce again? Peppers, you look long and spindly and – barren. Eggplants, oh hey – I have one eggplant…surprise! Out of the eight fall okra stalks I planted, two didn’t get eaten by worms. We mi-i-i-ght have okra.” This internal chatter was going on in my head as I walked the length of the garden, assessing what was left and whether or not I should turn on the sprinkler for a bit or just hand water.
I reached the end of my garden and stopped. A few days ago I had planted three rows of Chinese long beans. My carpool partner, Dr. Liu, had given me a bag of beans and I wanted to see how they grew. Last week I had put my summer compost stock on the garden and so I gave the beans the “special” garden plot, all freshly renewed with black gold. When I reached that section, however, not only were the long beans making progress but so was about 50-100…? They looked like cucumbers, watermelon, squash, or something similar. So the count was like this: Long bean, 5-10 little mystery plants, long bean, 5-10 little mystery plants. Looks like my black gold was full of vegetable seeds that held on through the cooking process.
It was evening, and I was staring at a good sized weeding job. Or was I? Did I need to pull these little plants up just yet? I wasn’t sure. As I was standing there looking across about 18 square feet of composted garden covered in tiny sprouts my mind wandered back to the news I had just watched on T.V. Oklahoma was losing soldiers more frequently this last month and I was overcome with helpless, desperate grief. That emotion was what compelled me to leave the living room and walk outside in the first place.
As I studied the hundreds of sprouts, in my mind they began to turn into the hundreds of white graves I sat among when I visited Arlington National Cemetery a few years ago. It was peaceful out there. The cherry blossoms were blooming, the grass was an unreal green, the hills are rolling and there are thousands of white graves memorializing those who died for our country.
I blinked. The white graves were gone and the green sprouts returned. “No,” I thought. “I’m not pulling them up. I’ll leave them for now.” My decision was an attempt to choose life over the surge in death our military was experiencing in Afghanistan. As I headed toward the water spigot I noticed the tomatoes were blooming. I stopped and went back for a closer look. To me, they looked like little yellow stars. They were shaped a bit like those stars or ornate crosses they pin on a soldier when they’ve earned a commendation for valor. So, that’s what I decided they were.
My little victory garden has now become my little memorial garden, and I deem all my little mystery buds worthy of the highest honor – a tomato star. It was the only thought I could muster at that point to honor our soldiers who have died. As if this drought didn’t make me appreciate whatever little I’ve gotten from my garden recently, the plants were even more precious now.
I just want our soldiers to come home.
For all the “My Little Victory Garden” posts, click here.