Three local gardening angels have created a sensational weekend for all those who love food, gardening, or all things green. This is an example of using one’s creativity to inspire and enlighten while at the same time bringing together community in order to make the world a better place to live. Does that seem like a lot of praise? Am I overdoing it? I can only ask you to find out for yourselves by visiting the website Dig In! and attending this weekend’s movies, classes and seed swap.
Leigh Wilkerson is the founding gardener, but she could not have grown this project without the help of sister farmgirls Cheri LaRue and Charity Lewis. These three have used every aspect of creativity in order to make this event a success. They have written. They have been interviewed by the paper and on the radio. They have sketched logos, and they have drawn on the knowledge and wisdom of their own learning experience, as well as those of every gardener and beekeeper whose books they’ve read over the years.
“Dig In!” is, in the tradition of most great creative projects, an act of love. These three have set out to share a love for the land, a passion for gardening and farming, a need to share what they have learned with their community, and a desire to create a better NW Arkansas by trying to “keep it local.” I don’t mean to advertise, but if you want to see what the collaborative efforts of creative minds can do, then come to “Dig In!” this weekend and enjoy yourselves as you learn. What better way is there to get an education? First, though, read the following poem. Then, after you’ve attended the conference, I challenge you to write a poem or an essay, or hey, go plant a garden yourself!Gardening Angel She grasps a fistful of soil and squeezes. Is it too damp or crumbling with fertility? Should she weed, plant or allow it to lay untouched just one more day? Finally, her mud-stained gardening gloves furrow, scoop and shape the earth to rows and hillocks, fingertip a tiny fertile valley black with year old compost. She always overseeds. It’s her generous nature. She plots small jungles full of fruit: beets, greens, onions, taters, tomatoes, carrots, squash, okra, beans, mmmm…melons. My gardening angel isn’t heaven-oriented but grounded. She is made of earth like Eve, only she hails from Alabama instead of that oh-so-easy garden, Eden. Soon we will be Arkansas as we feed on vegetables and minerals that in seven years will remake us from Appalachia into Ozark. She is saving me from fast food disaster, fending off microwaves frozen dinners and all the devils who mass produce meats. My gardening angel does a lot of this alone with a hoe, a pick axe and a shovel. She’s my here and now PRN, practical nurse, gardening friend. I glimpse her wings now and then where they beat the weathered ankles of her caked and battered boots. At moments I forget her halo, then catch her unawares praying in the garden, sunlight scattering the dark silk hair feathering her smiling face in spring or summer breeze. Her bright white hands are doves which wing among the leaves of a tiny apple tree. Sometimes she simply stands and oversees her queendom this little plot of Earth that’s been given to her care. The love with which she oversees her subjects would stir my jealousy but for the fact they’re mostly plants and chickens, worms and bees. The kitchen counter top becomes a crowded altar with baskets piled with veggies, berries, eggs. She assembles an old juicer, rinses (oh, so tenderly– think Mary with Jesus’ feet) every earthy body free of soil, trims and chops then feeds them to the whirring blades. No one said garden angeling was easy. She thinks of all my achings, knows this miracle will help me. Soon she’ll lift the chalice of her labors, red as Beaujolais or Pinot Noir, rich soil smell captured in the blood tasting of the Mother’s heart, sweetened with an apple sweet and tart. Wholly, I will drink it down feel the energy run through me renew me make me one again with rock and plant, water, soil; with bird and bug and worm breeze, rain, shade, sun– part of me now, part of me! So faithfully my gardening angel reminds me gently in her healing way that Earth is Paradise and every day spent gardening a blessed Eternity.