Fingers in the Dirt, Heads in the Clouds
Todo has a tomato. At this point, it’s little more than a green bulbous nub, but a tomato it is, a fruit of nature, coming to us from the ground up.
We’ve had our fingers in the Sandhills lately, coaxing back the longleaf needles, hoeing out those root tendrils to get at that nice mix of sand and clay.
Stirred up with a fair helping of amendments, the soil beds have become these nice, rich, cool beds.
Anytime you get out the garden tools and start breaking ground, you’re bound to attract a crowd of kids in the neighborhood, which was exactly the point.
So there my wife and I were, putting rake and hoe into the tiny, uncalloused fingers of our children and a neighbor friend. It was a great lesson for them to see what really is beneath the ground they run across.
They were patient gardeners, undeterred by root and rock. They enjoyed the tilling so much, they almost lost sight of the end game here: getting these toddler tomatoes into the fresh earth.
We gave each a plant, taught them how gently to coax them from their temporary environs, and brush away the dirt from the roots.
I decided now was a good time for a little science lesson, which is laughable given my thin background in biology. Yes, my degree is a bachelor of science, but it’s in journalism, a matter my geography-major wife still finds revolting.
“How do we drink water?” I ask the kids.
“Our mouths,” they answer.
“OK, and what do we use to eat food?”
The answer I wanted was “our fingers,” which is what we spend half the time around the table correcting them NOT to use when a perfectly good fork is next to them.
Their answer: “Forks!”
OK, I’ll work with that. I explain how the roots are like mouths and forks and how the plant will use those as it grows.
Then each child steps to the garden and reaches in with their small hands to make a hole in the berm and gently lay in their tomato plant.
When the three tomato plants were grounded and tucked in, it was time to take turns with the hose to provide a good soaking. Eventually, some water managed to drip off the giggling garden gnomes and onto the new plantings.
They each then got to name their tomato plant, to stamp it as their own and cast away the fanciful names that came on plastic sticks. Our daughter, Loreleigh, named hers “Veggie.” The neighbor child dubbed hers “Ashley.” Ayden, picking apparently from either the “Transformers” or “Star Wars” book of baby names, came up with “Todo.”
We’ve kept a close eye on these three caballeros the last week or so, and we’ll soon have another group lesson in fertilizing, blooms and, hopefully, the fruit of their efforts.
This lesson of the earth is a long time in coming. We’ve taken them to farmers markets and shown them what real produce looks like. We’ve picked strawberries and blueberries.
It’s good for kids to stay close to the ground, to have a solid relationship that they can nurture, watch grow and give back.
It’s very different from the lesson Loreleigh and I had last weekend when we attended the Young Eagles Fly-In at the Moore County Airport, sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter No. 1220.
There, we met acquaintance and local pilot Ed Watters, who graciously escorted the two of us to his waiting Piper Dakota while Leslie and Ayden waited at the terminal.
The point of the event was to fly kids up and about Moore County and give them that intoxicating taste of flight in a small craft, and it failed to disappoint.
With me beside Ed and Loreleigh in the back, I couldn’t see her, but I could hear her in the headset as we took off: “Ahhhhhhh! This is so cool!”
We climbed, settled our stomachs, and circled Carthage’s Buggy Festival, buzzed over our neighborhood, followed U.S. 1 up through Southern Pines and seemingly wafted along the currents as Ed expertly pointed out landmarks and coached us on an aviator’s finer skills.
We were nearing the end when Loreleigh came on the headset and asked, “Are we going up in the sky?”
Two thousand feet up apparently wasn’t high enough for her. And that got me to wondering whether she, like all our children, wasn’t really thirsting for the thrill of weightlessness, the twinkle of stars, freedom from the gravity of our Earthbound selves.
Typical. Here we are trying to ground our children in the fundamentals of life, and they have their heads in the clouds. It’s funny, what ends up growing in our children’s gardens.
John Nagy is editor of The Pilot. Contact him at (910) 693-2507 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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