In Memory of Hans Rhenisch, Gardener, 1932-2017

Hansel in 1935

It begins with a grandfather taking a boy out into the garden. Then comes eight decades (and a bit more) of working with the earth to keep that moment alive. Such energy along the way!

Hans Throwing Hay in the Black Forest, 1947

Then we say good-bye and take up the flame. Aufwiedersehen, Vater. Hello.

Thanks for taking me out into the orchard.

1965

And thanks for all the kale and the gift of stories.

Love, Harold

Who is the Gardener?

I have learned this week what I already knew but had no words for. I am not the gardener in this land, but the garden that the land makes. Needle-and-thread grass makes me, with its sprays of delicate light in the wind and its way of drilling its seeds into the soil using the heating and cooling of days and nights. It is a beautiful plant that connects me to childhood and mystery. It also thrives in this dry climate.
In comparison, the weed-choked land, the gift of bad cattle management, and the orchard land it was developed into a little over a century ago, create different selves. I follow their paths, often unknowingly, and thus am created by them in their image. It is often an ugly image.

It replaces eternal ones, such as this doe and her year-old fawn, who watch me out of the last snow, in sagebrush that has turned weedy from overgrazing by cattle. There is little for them here now, but her gaze tends me, and make me in her image. I am gardened.

Many of the old orchards are weeds of mustard now. The idea of chopping the land into small spaces did not produce people with the ability to develop a culture other than to develop into the weeds that speak most clearly of the introduction of foreign crops in this ancient space. These weeds, and the people who buy and sell the land they grow on, are gardened not by the land and its water but by sets of laws imposed upon them.

But they are still gardened. To say that we, humans, have a garden is to say that we stand in the place of the earth and try to recreate that relationship to our own benefit. Here’s a glimpse into my garden this morning.

It, of course, also gardens me, if I let it. I do. I’m not the only one. A woman down the road has sown poppies in the cheatgrass and rescued a barren, scarred hill into a delight that can recreate the land for thousands.

We make ourselves by tending the land, so that it can tend to us. If we cover it with black plastic to kill that relationship, our children will grow up in a zone of death. It will take time, but it will come. That is not gardening.

This is gardening:

This is respect.

Apples Make Their Own Heat

Here’s my Spigold opening up last week. Note how the sun drew the leaves out quickly, but the flowers take their time, drawn out more slowly by the heat their fur traps close to their skins and the heat the red spectrum of their first show of petals gathers from the sun. What tiny worlds. What tiny energy effects!

This isn’t global warming. It’sĀ localĀ warming!

In the end, 500 gram apples are the result. It takes time. We have that.