Sunday, April 21, 2013

Little Baby Things

During spring, it’s easy to feel very tender toward everything.  Tiny, yellow-green buds and leaves are tentatively peeking out on tree branches; birds are fluttering about preparing nests; the early flowers (crocuses, daffodils, even some intrepid tulips) are shyly, yet bravely flowering.  The sky arches overhead streaked with cottony clouds and displaying a baby blue which no other time of the year possesses.

While I appreciate each season equally, there is something particularly moving about the soft vitality of spring.  It inspires me to join it in its work of bringing new things to life. 

The result of this inspiration is my preparation of new herb pots for the summer. 

New herbs and old herbs!
Last year was the first year I’d undertaken growing herbs.  Since I think it’s always safer to start small, I only planted three things: basil, oregano and parsley.  Those are the herbs I use most frequently in cooking, so they seemed a good choice.  They turned out very successfully.  From July to January I bought no basil to speak of, since I overwintered a pot in a sunny window.  From August until now I’ve had to buy parsley only once, when I needed a huge amount of it for a party recipe.  From September to December, my oregano kept me supplied until it went dormant for the winter.

Well, with such success, as you might imagine, I’ve decided to expand my repertoire (if herbs can have a repertoire, that is!).  I also use plenty of cilantro in Mexican cooking, plus thyme and rosemary for seasoning my preferred Mediterranean cuisine.  Plus, I want to grow hot chilis and bell peppers, and basil is an annual so it has to be replanted.  Since I had my trimester break at the beginning of April, I decided to get things started.  

There’s something so happy about burying your hands in soil and laying out the tiny seeds.

Look how cute I am!
It is essentially a creative act – the beginning of creativity, when time and care and patience are needed to nurture the small being (of whatever kind) into life.  I think that much of creativity is absorbed in the act of preservation.  It’s easy to have instantaneous inspirations of all kinds, but not so easy to take care of that inspiration until it has the vigor and strength to survive on its own.  Similarly with seeds and baby animals – also human babies: the fruit of our creative impulses, even the most basic, biological ones, always demand our care and love and long labor. 

Besides starting my herb pots, I’ve also arranged to adopt a kitten from a friend of mine.  It’s probably a girl, and she’ll be ready in a week or two.  And of course, I’m a teacher currently, so I have plenty of children under my care.  There is much responsibility that comes along with the endeavor to raise a small, young creature to its proper state of existence.  That responsibility can seem like a burden at times, but it also can bring out the best part of our humanity. 

 For this reason, I’d argue that creation in some form or other is the vocation of each human being

There’s an essay on fairy tales by J. R. R. Tolkien in which he talks about sub-creation.  Basically he argues that in a universe which continually engenders and preserves new life in multiple different forms, human beings (who have the ability to acknowledge this universal activity) feel the drive to partake in it.  They take different elements of the overall creativity of being and reconfigure them in ways that suit the human character.  Of course, he was specifically talking about stories and especially fantasy stories, but I think the principle can be applied to all good human endeavors. 

Seeds are part of a universal pattern!
Whether they be farms or gardens or quilts or woodworking or food or poems or stories, in all our creations, we’re doing our best to mimic the overarching patterns of life unfolding around us.  This mimicry may seem silly, until we realize that the products of our labors actually end up becoming part of that overarching pattern.  The agriculturalist cooperates with the fertility of nature and enhances it; the cook provides sustenance for living beings; the artist reveals the pattern to others so that they can participate in it more consciously. 

Sometimes it can be easy to feel discouraged by the monotony and responsibility of pursuing our various professions and hobbies.  However, during the springtime, when the renewal of the yearly patterns is visible around us, we can take heart and refresh our commitment to that undertakings with love.  In every cycle of creation there is a time of dryness and dormancy.  After such a period, though, life returns to delight and inspire us again to continue.  


  1. I think you've expanded on creativity and spring and little things eloquently here. So I shall leave you with this 'creation'

    And while it is all could be the start of...?

  2. I absolutely loved the last paragraph of this post. Beautifully phrased, and right on point.