God, Grant Me The Serenity

by Cynthia

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My favorite image of Walnut Ridge is this one: newborn lambs on spring pasture. These little guys were born three hours before this photo was taken. They wobbled behind Mom on spindly legs, sniffing everything in their strange new world. I sat and watched them until they faded into wispy shadows of white beneath the cedars as the sky grew dark.

Next month the baby goats will be born. Our chicks have become gangley teens, not ready to enter the chicken house with the older hens, but restless in their temporary home in the chicken tractor.  All the fruit trees are budding and life is bursting out everywhere; birdsong and babies, buds and blossoms. The pastures are  mushy with spring rain and the winter lettuces are getting long in the tooth.

My daughter announced two weeks ago that she will have another baby this year, our third grandchild.  It’s as if new life and the promise of renewal is everywhere I turn and all I can do is drink in the joy of it and want it never to end.

Spring in Tennessee comes quickly, getting a jump on me every year. Frequent late frosts make us wary of planting before May, and then June is upon us and it’s already hot and humid. The tomatoes I had started from last year’s seed crop went into the ground last weekend. I have been checking them every day like I check the new lambs. Are they okay? Are they growing? Are they going to make it through the cool nights?

Growing your own food and raising animals can be a spiritual practice, requiring faith, discipline, and an occasional acceptance of failure. My most recent failure? The voles ate ninety percent of the peas I planted last month and my cucumber transplants have already wilted. On the upside my spring lettuce is abundant and delicious. Gardening is a constant opportunity to practice the first tenet of the Serenity Prayer; God help me to accept the things I cannot change. Like the weather. Like the voles, and the bugs, and the worms and the blight and the wilt and the myriad viruses and fungi that will attack my plants in spite of my vigilance.

But the promise of fresh, clean food right in our own backyards is powerful enough to pull us true believers back into our gardens each spring. We buy organic bug sprays. We research and consult and worry. We compost and fertilize and hoe, giving homage to the second principle of the Serenity Prayer; “God, give me the courage to change the things I can”.

Surely my grandmother with eight children depending on her garden for their very sustenance did not obsess about her plants the way I do. She hadn’t the time. She must have had years when the tomatoes all got blossom-end rot or the Japanese beetles decimated the pole beans. I suppose they ate squash when the squash was abundant and something else when it was not.

Knowing when it is time to throw a struggling plant into the weed pile and when a bit of loving care might just revive it is often difficult for me. Sometimes I give in too soon, like last year when I capitulated to the squash bugs. I ripped up the vines and threw them into the woods vowing to never grow squash again. Then there was the year I spent way too much money trying to heal my heirloom Amish paste tomatoes from a late blight.  When to keep trying and when to let go?

God, grant me the wisdom to know the difference.

2 Comments to “God, Grant Me The Serenity”

  1. This is eloquent, Cynthia, so thoughtful and just the right words to convey the feeling of spring on your farm. I just don’t know how you integrate all the facets of your life— from all the human and animal relationships you nurture, to coaxing a seed to life. It’s really raining today and I’m thinking ‘what a good excuse to sit on the couch and read a good book’ as if I didn’t find ‘a good excuse’ all the time. Like it’s really hot outside, or it’s really cold, or I stubbed my toe, or my knee hurts….. See you tonight. xoxoxJ

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