We’ve made it to August…and although it is like no other August we have previously experienced, some things are (mostly) the same. From kindergarten to college, our kids are headed back to school in one way or another and the home gardens we planted this pandemic spring are now producing in earnest. The seeds and tiny plants we nurtured through the heat of summer have grown, flowered and are now, with a little luck, producing lots of good food. During what I have been calling “a very corona summer,” many people planted vegetable gardens, quite a few for the very first time. Maybe you put in some tomatoes and peppers or maybe you planted zucchini. I read somewhere that zucchini plants are often so abundant, some gardeners complain that they are “too easy to grow.” Have you found yourself with an excess of zucchini?
When I was a young girl, my maternal grandfather, Granddaddy Hutchens, kept a very large vegetable garden. My grandfather worked nearly round the clock at his Benton restaurant, “Hutchens BBQ” but once he retired, the garden filled his time. Afternoons spent with Granddaddy often meant playing on the tree swing at “the garden, ” just a short walk from his home. Many, many times my mother and I would arrive home to find a big haul of fresh produce at the door….Granddaddy had driven over to Paducah and left his unique calling card…home grown tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, and more, usually in an old cardboard box. “Daddy was here. Look at those tomatoes!” my mother would say.
In August of 1982, when I went away to college at Transylvania in the big city of Lexington, I received letters from Granddaddy saying “I dropped off some zucchini to Ms. Gammel.” Ms. Gammel was my paternal grandmother and I called her Granny Gammel. Having both lived in Benton many years, Granddaddy Hutchens and Granny Gammel had known each other most of their adult lives. My parents divorced before I turned five but my grandparents continued to treat each other with courtesy and kindness and respect.
A week or so after receiving Granddaddy’s letter, I would get an important notice in my student mailbox. It would read: YOU HAVE A PACKAGE. I would run to the student PO and grab my prize, a care box from my Granny….brownies and rice crispy treats were staples, as well as “Sock It To Me” or “7-Up” cake, a quart jar of homemade dill pickles (my absolute favorite)…and then, wrapped in tin foil, a loaf of zucchini bread. There was always a letter from Granny…“W.C. left a big box on zucchini on the porch. I’ve been making zucchini bread so I’m sending you some. I took about a half dozen loaves over to him.”
My Granddaddy would put his hands to the ground and grow zucchini, which he then would gift to my Granny, and other town folk. In her kitchen, she would transform the zucchini into moist, sweet bread and return it to him and a bunch more folks. One evening years ago, after a long, hot, wonderful day in my garden, I called my father…just a little giddy. “Mike made me a raised bed and I planted peppers,” I exclaimed. “He’s making a second bed but I don’t know what to plant.” “Plant zucchini!” my Dad said, and I laughed out loud.
I learned many powerful lessons from my grandparents…maternal and paternal: What you give always comes back to you, but it might look a little different. Be kind. Be respectful, regardless of the circumstances. Be respectful BECAUSE of the circumstances. Be generous. Plant zucchini. Give it away. Bake bread. Give it away. Love one another.
What does all of this have to do with prayer and meditation? John Shelby Spong says this about prayer:
So praying and living deeply, richly, and fully have become for me almost indistinguishable. Perhaps, I conclude, that is what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess 5:17 KJV) or “constantly” (RSV). We are to live as if everything we say and do is a prayer, calling others to life, to love and to being.
During these difficult days of the corona virus, how can I live my life a little more like a prayer? Where can I be a little more generous…a little more abundant…in deed, word and gesture? In the spring of this global pandemic, what seeds were sown in my heart….and what is waiting now to be harvested?
“Then Jesus told them a parable about their need to pray always….” (Luke 18:1, NRSV)