If I've learned one thing from three decades of living in the country it's this: those who don't believe in miracles have never raised a garden.
In the country it's not the miracles of earth-shaking proportions that grab our attention. It's something much closer to the earth – I'm talking soil, seeds, and plants.
Last spring, for instance, a late frost withered the blossoms on all our fruit trees and vines.
“There go your apple pies,” I told my spouse who was gazing forlornly out the window.
But by June our apples were the size of ping-pong balls. Ditto for the grapes whose vines looked like they'd been scorched by a giant blowtorch.
Despite our best efforts to outguess Mother Nature, the miracle of spring continues to unfold around us year after year, and I might add, with no help from us at all.
I can't help but wonder how these “small miracles” come about.
To a child it's simple, as is the theme song from the children's movie, Charlotte's Web. The first time I heard it on the radio I was taken by the title – “Ordinary Miracles.”
The lyrics say it best:
When everything is beautiful,
It's just another ordinary miracle today.”
Just what, you might ask, is an ordinary miracle? Basically it's a simple event turned eventful, and we have no clue as to how or why it happened.
In the course of the day it's really the ordinary miracles that make us stop in our tracks and say – wow! I see at least one every time I go to the garden.
The earth doesn't shake and the ground doesn't tremble when a rhubarb leaf pokes out of the ground and unfurls itself in the chilly spring sunshine, but to me it seems like a miracle – of the ordinary kind, of course.
With every visit to the springtime garden, in fact, all kinds of unanswered questions come to mind:
How do tomato plants know when to bloom – and when to stop?
Who decided to put potatoes – the only plant in the garden with eyes – underground?
Who invented potato bugs – and why do we need them anyway?
If corn has ears why don't they tell us that raccoons are digging around the garden fence at night?
Childlike questions to be sure, but a garden has a way of taking us back to our roots. Children always seem more attuned to earth's day-to-day miracles – probably because they are closer to the ground. The Charlotte's Web song continues with that down-to-earth wisdom:
Don't need to teach a seed to grow,
It's just an ordinary miracle today.
Yes, the growing season in the garden abounds with ordinary miracles, many so obvious even an adult can see them. Here are a few ordinary garden miracles I've observed:
Tenfold Tomatoes: Every year this miracle occurs without fail. We're beguiled by those innocent little packets of seeds, and we forget this rule of green thumb: a tomato seed in the hand is worth tenfold in the garden.
Hay Day: Hey – what happened to the brown stubble that covered the hay field all winter? I guess I wasn't looking when it turned into grass. After a few “hey, you” looks from the goats we get the message. It's time to cut and bale.
Salad To Go Go: If a night on the town sounds exciting, check out this Salad Bar. If you're looking for action this is it! Only a month ago this was a very seedy place. Now there's baby beets, Swiss chard, new potatoes, peas, lettuce, green onions, broccoli, and cauliflower!
There's little doubt that the secret of a garden's success is in the seeds – and that's where the miracle starts.
How, after all, does a seed know if it's a tomato or a turnip?
Who tells it when to grow and how to do it?
On my shelf is a garden seed box I've saved for a few years now because I like the logo printed beside the seed company's name. There's a smiling sun peeking around a rain cloud. Both are looking fondly down to earth as the gardener opens his box of seeds.
“And now the miracle begins,” the caption reads.
Is it an ordinary miracle?
It all depends, of course, on whether you're looking up or looking down.