“The birch leaves are bigger than mouse ears,” I commented as we drove out into the countryside. This fact distressed me a little: I hadn’t yet got the potatoes into the ground. The size and color of the birch leaves has always been a measure of time for farmers in these parts, but mostly just as a marker, a sign that one had completed the needed tasks on time. For all of the part-time farmers of Sweden, and that is a very large number of us, the transformation of the birch leaf has become something of a stresser. Farming in the North is the art of precision. A week or two’s delay here or there may land you with crops that aren’t ready before the first frost. Everything in nature gets to work quickly, is terribly industrious throughout the light season, and then closes down promptly, albeit somewhat unwillingly.
The seed bags lie unopened on the counter of my island kitchen. They are a reflection of modern life. So much will to creativity, but such a small portion gets done. Or perhaps it is that a very great deal gets done and that our lists have just got too long. No one can be satisfied with just three tasks or five tasks. The list has to be long. Or perhaps it is that so much of life, and increasing portions of it, takes place in digital worlds. In other words, we are no longer living in one world, rather in several at the same time, keeping our heads constantly turning from one world to the other, wondering which world is most important to prioritize just now.
Yet the seed bags are still on the counter, closed, and that bothers me. My garden is a school of learning unsurpassed in content and quality by any educational institution I have attended. I’ve learned more there about the intricate connections between everything – the reason that answering the question of “why” is never simple – than in any other setting I can think of. Following the directions on the pack won’t do in a garden. One must observe, switch on all of the senses and come to a deeper understanding of all of the forces that will affect the sprouting of the seed and the growth of the plant. It is a true lesson in “sustainable growth,” a riddle that seems otherwise still unsolved. If we wanted to address the world’s most pressing problems, everyone, particularly the world’s leaders, should be asked to make a seed grow where they live. The learning and discussion that would follow this great global act would be of greater value than anything we have heard so far. The thought may seem idealistic, but having myself been involved in the construction of complex strategies to solve global problems, I think the results could catalyze considerable shifts.
I inspect the grounds of my summer island. The impossible rose garden which we created on an island of sand is well. The emptying of the septic tank on Good Friday certainly has worked wonders. I give myself credit for at least observing this important date in the calendar. Appropriately, the awful task of Good Friday leads to a stunning rebirth. As Christ ascends to heaven this weekend, the work of cutting back and removing those admirable fighters we call weeds, begins. A cold May wind steals through the sunlit air to ensure that no one rests in the hammock just yet. No time for resting. The seed bags have been opened.
Learn more about Julie Lindahl’s prize-winning new book, “Rose in the Sand,” a memoir of a decade lived on a Swedish island. Order it now from amazon.com, amazon.co.uk , Author House, authorhouse.co.uk and many other online bookstores, including major Swedish online bookstores such as bokia.se and adlibris.se. If you live in Sweden visit www.julielindahl.com to take advantage of a special offer currently available for Lindahl’s books. Learn more about her other books and activities at www.julielindahl.com.