Gardeners know—and appreciate—it.

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My husband and I run a small commercial, organic farm in Sonoma County, California. Last Fall we saved seeds from our own plants, spreading them out to dry and packing them away in tiny manila envelopes. In February, we filled 200 seed pots. In a mixture of sheep manure and soil, we planted tomato seeds, lining up row after row of four-inch pots on long tables in the greenhouse. After that, we filled more pots and planted peppers and eggplants. In a matter of weeks, we had a miniature forest.

Now, years later, I have finally learned to wait, sometimes more patiently than others.

After transplanting the seedlings into the garden beds, we waited for signs of growth and blossoms. Of course, there was more than enough other work to keep us busy—if nothing else, weeding. Weeding is like laundry. No matter how many times you do it, it’s always there waiting. Waiting seems to be central to gardening—waiting for rain, waiting for the soil temperature to rise, waiting for that first sprout, waiting for the first ripe tomato.

I’ve never been good at waiting, although I should have learned young. When my father was in the Navy, we spent a lot of time waiting. From the time I was two until I was ten, our family often waited when his ship was due in from some far-off place. I remember those times well. We’d been told the estimated time of arrival in Coronado Bay, but often “estimated” meant just that. As the minutes and sometimes hours passed, I couldn’t hold still. By the time the ship came in sight, I was already waving and yelling “Daddy” at the top of my voice—along with about a hundred other children who were looking for their own fathers.

As the ship moved slowly towards us, we could see the crew standing at the rail at attention. Once the ship was secured, the men descended the gangplank one by one, sometimes stumbling in their hurry. My mother pointed when Dad appeared, tall and handsome in his dress whites. At last he stepped onto the dock. We pushed our way through the crowd and threw our arms around his legs. My mother stood back smiling as Dad scooped up Mary, the youngest, and made his way to where Mom waited, with Jane and me dancing along either side of him.

The next few days were great fun. Dad would take us on a picnic at the beach or a trip to the San Diego Zoo. Soon it seemed natural that there were six at the dinner table and Dad’s voice that woke us each morning with, “Rise and shine!” But just when we grew used to his presence, Dad shipped out again—and another long wait began.

Now, many years later, I have finally learned to wait, although some times more patiently than others. Over the years, I’ve learned that waiting often brought the sweetest things — whether a new baby, my brother’s safe return from his two tours in Vietnam, or meeting the person who became my life’s companion.

The ordinary events of our days can prove worth waiting for, too—spotting that first tiny leaf that announces the tomatoes are on their way; seeing the first fawn of Spring, frail, wet and wobbly; waiting in the back of the truck for an amazing meteor shower. I’ve heard people say, “Good things come to those who wait.” It’s not always true, but often enough.

Certainly in gardening.


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