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Beauty in Labor


Work at the farm these days is a hot and sweaty endeavor that often includes mosquitoes. The rain brings some temporary relief, but it requires rubber boots and makes it tricky to move the cart of vegetables down the rows. We harvest from fields prepared and planted this spring, and already the cabbage and broccoli I helped put in the ground are gone and the space cleared for the next round.

Hence, this episode of Speaking of Faith, featuring Vigen Guroian resonated with me because it captured the particular joy (and melancholy) of watching living things grow, come and go. There is a joy and pleasure in such labor that makes even the cabbage worm's lacey handiwork something awe-inspiring.

"In spring, I cultivate the perennial bed with the magenta petals and sweet citrus fragrance of the rugosa rose in mind. In excitement, I wait also for the green bouquet of the broccoli plant and the calm, clean scent of the cucumber.

"This was not always so. In the beginning, in my first garden in Richmond, Virginia, I farmed for food on the table. But in Charlottesville, Virginia, in Eldersburg and Reisterstown, Maryland, and last, here in Culpeper, the garden has finally reformed my disposition toward it. It has entirely transfigured my vision of life. …

" … For the sake of beauty, I gladly leave the ruffled red cabbage to grow long beyond its time for harvest. I let the mustard reach high with bright yellow bouquets. I cultivate carefully the asparagus row not just for the taste of its buttery spears but also for the verdant fern foliage that shoots up after the spring cutting. I let volunteer sunflower, cosmos, and cleome seedlings grow where they choose. And I sneak orange nasturtiums into the hills of sweet-potato vines. … "
- V. Guroian, Speaking of Faith


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