We move to the garden, where Micah warns me, “You have to feed them enough. Otherwise they’ll starve.”
“Is it possible to give them too much?” I ask.
“Yeah, then they’ll drown.”
I pull an onion out and inhale. “It smells like garlic,” Micah tells me.
“Those tomatoes were once a seed,” he tells me. “They came out of nowhere.”
Tangible grace. I didn’t earn it.
Then he reaches the squash and says, “It’s magical. The flowers turn into food. You should watch.”
I should watch.
I should feel.
I should smell.
* * *
Christy joins in the process, carefully explaining the details without trying to sound like a nag. She explains the proper way to plant a blackberry bush, how to know when an onion is ripe, the best way to mix manure soup and how to handle brooding hens. For her, it’s an art and a science and rather than straddling the line, she embraces the two extremes simultaneously, at one time reminding me to feel my way through it and at another time explaining me the precise strategy needed for the garden.
It’s a mystery, the power of dirt. Never sure when to let go and when to step in, when I’m starving or drowning. It’s parenting. It’s teaching. It’s all things relational.
Muddy. Messy. I’m five again, planting seeds and hoping for life to break through. It’s tangible. Earthy. Humble. I’m remembering what it means to learn with my hands instead of just my mind. I’m trying to be present. Instead, I feel the rush of nostalgia.
I look over to Christy. She wipes the sweat from her forehead. She’s beautiful. She doesn’t believe it right now. It’s difficult to undue years of socialization. But she’s beautiful. Naturally.
“You know, I like to do this type of work. You can always ask for help,” I tell her.
“And you can always volunteer,” she reminds me.
* * *
I want to share this moment with a stranger. However, we live in a culture where it’s considered pushy to share one’s beliefs with others. I cringe at the Megaphone Jesus Screamer or the angry left/right protestors who carry banners and yell slogans. What I’m realizing is that Facebook allows people to share ideas in status updates and try and convert people through causes and grow imaginary communities in places like Farmville.
Collectively delusional? Most likely.
Meeting a visceral need that we’ve lost in a sea of postmodernism? Definitely.
It’s in doing my own Suburban Farmville that I recover the sense of satisfaction that occurs when I share my joy with friends. Perhaps I was obnoxious. Perhaps my tone had a little tinge of Megaphone Jesus Screamer. Perhaps that’s always a byproduct in trying to convert someone. However, I’m recognizing that in trying to be polite, I have hidden some of my most deepest convictions and best experiences. So, I get over my need to keep it to myself and decide to create a real-life status update.
* * *
I try to make sense of the frailty of life and the craziness of hope and grace made tangible, so, in line with Farmville, I figure I’ll try and convert Javi the Hippie to my cause.
“Hey Javi, I think you should grow a garden. I think it does something profound for the soul. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe I’m crazy. But I think everyone needs it.”
But unlike a status update, this comment does not go unnoticed and Javi the Hippie tells me that he’ll fix my sprinkler system if I teach him to garden and although we pretend it’s a social contract, we know that friendship doesn’t work like that. It’s messy. it’s muddy. It’s grace in tangible form.
The talk wavers between story and spirituality until finally I share with him my laundry list of Suburban Farmville activity.
“Javi, I pulled onions, watered the plants, found eggs, planted some bushes, turned the compost, replaced the ducks’ water and . . .”
“. . . spent time with Micah.”
“Exactly. So, how many points is that worth?”
“I don’t know. I hate Farmville. I’m actually part of a Facebook group that hates Farmville.”
“You’re part of a hate group?” I ask.
“For Farmville,” he says.
“Yeah, but hate is a strong word I usually reserve for mayonaise and genocide.”
“I won’t give you a point value. It can’t be quantified,” Javi the Hippie says, refusing to budge, even for a Living Facebook Experiment.
“You’re ruining this,” I warn him. But he refuses to budge.
Javi’s right. It can’t be quantified.