In praise of she who wields the mattock

Many years ago a young lady visited the garden when only a few raised beds stood shoulder to shoulder, in stony but  not straight evidence that growth was underway. The weather was snowy, and she was there along with others to measure the beds so that we could calculate the area in order to purchase soil compost mix. Or perhaps we were doing this in order to prepare an assignment for one of the math classes. It doesn’t matter. Who works in the garden in the snow, she wondered?

What does matter is that this woman became intrigued by the magic that surrounds the garden and began a love affair that still continues, visiting the garden in all seasons and participating for all reasons. For several summers she was there nearly every weekend, working early before the sun’s heat was full. Eventually the squash bugs so traumatized her that she declared full bore “No more” and desisted from going anywhere near growing squash.

She has left her share of sweat and blood in the garden, nurturing the growing plants like any dedicated volunteer. One of the delights of coordinating a community garden is never really knowing everything that’s going on, which includes a surprising troop of dedicated community and garden members who arrive and depart at their own volition. One week a number of purple and white iris were planted in some of the garden beds. Another time it was a score of heirloom tomatoes. The garden delights with fresh surprises, feeding that part of us that thrives on the unexpected. The woman above, Erin Hughey-Commers, has made a ritual of showing up unexpectedly, and that arrival always heralds her unique combination of cheerfulness and industry.

Perhaps strangest yet, she fell in love with a wild haired, dirty fingernailed, impulsive laissez-faire garden coordinator and last month we were wedded in a simple yet beautiful ceremony in Nelson county, the center of the universe.

Erin, you have the gift of making everything around you glow more brightly. Thank you for marrying me… and I’ll see you in the garden.

Erin with mattock

Photos credit: Sara Elizabeth


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