Monday, June 3, 2013

The Fruits of My Labor

When I meet someone new who I think I might like to know a little better, I pose a specific question. I believe it gets to the heart of who a person is. Some have actually taken offense at my asking it. For others, it opens up a lively and long conversation. So what is this polarizing question?

If money were no concern and you could choose anything you wanted, what would your job be?

Of course, I'm asking what someone's avocation is, but as some have never heard of this word, I simply phrase it differently. I am always surprised by the people who have no answer or, worse, have gotten angry with me. One person shrieked, "Money is a concern, so who cares about such a stupid question?" I immediately felt sorry for her. I understand that most of us can't walk away from everything to take up some career that might not keep food on the table. What I cannot fathom is how we could find life pleasurable without even doing something in our spare time that feeds our spirit and, more importantly, knowing exactly what that is. I have enjoyed hearing that people would paint or write or coach or become a dentist. I like watching joy spread across people's faces when they talk about those things.

Could anyone guess what I would do? It would involve gardening, certainly. And if I could combine gardening and teaching, well, I think we'd hit the mark. Either of those activities causes me to bubble up with joy. I was reminded of this on Saturday. Not surprisingly, I had spent some time in the vegetable garden. As usual, I became completely absorbed with pulling weeds and checking on the productive plants. I must have been a little lost in thought because, as I turned the corner to head into the pool enclosure, I caught sight of Turfman, who had been looking for me. But I was perplexed to find him laughing at me.

"What's so funny?" I asked.

"I might ask you the same thing. Why do you have such a huge smile on your face?"

Embarrassed, I said, "Oh, well, I was just in the garden. And I really love it."

Turfman had witnessed my joy.

I can't begin to speculate on the number of hours I have worked on the gardens at this house. All that work is producing wonderful dividends at this point, though just working in them has its own rewards. I love walking or driving up to the house. Just as I turn onto the street, I can see the flashes of color from my front garden.

We enter through plants waist high, flanking the walk

The secret garden just causes me to exhale every time I walk into it. This weekend, I hauled out the ladder to get a different perspective of it. I went aerial.

The Secret Garden from above
In the vegetable garden, the beans continue to reach for the top of the archway. The zucchinis and yellow squashes are still giving us fruit, and this weekend, I picked my first bunch of jalapenos.

It looks like a small collection, but...
Within minutes, they became a pint jar of pickled jalapenos. Now here is my chance to combine gardening and teaching. One very serious word of caution for anyone embarking on their first jalapeno pickling session. You absolutely must wear gloves. I did not on my first attempt, and within an hour, my hands had swollen and turned a deep shade of pink. I washed my hands several times with soap, to no avail. And then I made the terrible mistake of rubbing my eyes. For a while, we thought we would have to go to the emergency room. It took more Advil than I care to divulge to reduce the pain (and the face and hand swelling). Here endeth the lesson.

If you just slice & pack the peppers into a sterlized jar &
pour pickling liquid over, they're ridiculously hot!
So, what makes the joy spread across your face?


  1. Well, after would have to be writing about the history of gardening - that would be a pretty perfect trifecta!

  2. Kneading bread dough. Or, more recently, I made lemon buttermilk cookies. I listened to the Amelie soundtrack while I cooked, and it was a quiet afternoon. The kitchen was still and peaceful and smelled like pancakes. I was smiling for the rest of the day after that.

  3. The first page of a new book. It's like embarking on a new adventure. I usually read in bed surrounded by sleeping cats. I am most at peace when I am reading.

    1. Ooh. Sabrina. I'd love that job, too!