Empty Spaces

This morning I harvested the remainder of my leeks, right next to where I pulled out the broccoli which had lost its battle with cabbage worms. It has left a gaping emptiness in about a quarter of the main vegetable bed.

Last week, as I knew of the pending available space, I looked at my planting guide to see what goodies I could add–an instant replacement of what I had lost. While there were numerous options, nothing excited me. Instead, I noticed a variety of sweet corn that I could plant in September. September? That seems so far away. I had gotten used to every inch of dirt being covered in greenery, and the blank, dark space feels naked.

In the process of building this garden, I have had to surrender to a definition of time not familiar to me. I wanted to write a “new” definition of time, but it is a timeless definition that existed eons before I did, a rhythm that will last long after I shed my body. Even after several months it still feels strange, and I want to jump in, to control, to make things happen…but Nature has other ideas.

Timing in my cooking has also changed. Recently we bought a solar oven. I thought, why not? We get plenty of sun in Houston, and I don’t use the kitchen’s oven in the summertime because the house gets too hot. This seemed the perfect solution. Of course, then I started cooking in it, and reality set in. Some days are cloudier than others. I also have to move the oven frequently to work around the shade provided by nearby trees. Some days it rains.

Over time, I’ve discovered that the best time to set food out to cook is about 11:00 a.m. After about 4:00 p.m., catching the afternoon sun gets trickier, either due to clouds or blockages to the sun’s view. Sometimes we have our main meal at lunchtime. Other times, we manage to keep food safely warm until dinner, though we do the main cooking earlier in the day. Once I had to finish a meal in the oven, but I just needed about ten minutes’ cooking time. If it’s a week with a high percentage chance of storms, I choose recipes that I can make on the stovetop if the sun doesn’t cooperate.

In other words, I play the hand I’m dealt. I’ve had to adjust, and in the beginning I wondered, “What am I thinking?” I kept at it, though, mainly because I’m curious about things. I want to explore my need to control the rhythms of life vs. following nature’s. I want to understand why a patch of bare garden feels so sad. I want to know what happens in the rest of my life when I live not by my rhythms, but Thine’s. Does it change my writing (other than that I’m always writing about the garden!)? Does it alter my relationship? Does time feel more or less elastic, or does that change with my attitude?

I’ve decided to wait until September and plant the corn. I’ll spend some time with the space, maybe composting, mulching, and weeding it, enriching the soil for its next important job. I’ll continue to listen to what the empty space tells me, and I will breathe into that discomfort to hear its stories…and perhaps, to write them down. In the meantime, I’m cooking a curry outside, and I need to make sure it’s getting enough sun.

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