We planted garlic this week, one of the few gardening chores for December. After the flurry of fall with harvesting, preserving and clearing out for winter, it has the luxury of my focus. The prepared beds with the lovely, waiting soil feel spacious, uncluttered and peaceful. There’s room for reflection.
In terms of the garden year, this task is one of many that overlaps this season with the next. The life of each of these plants begins with a single clove, waiting in the cold and darkness. I think about how all life begins in darkness– as seeds in the ground, or in the womb, or as souls in the abyss of some emptiness that is an integral part of our human experience.
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep.” (Genesis vs 1-2, RSV)
Yet if there is one thing that can assure our human hearts, it has to be that the light will come back–because it always has and it always will. We wait in the waning of the old year for the slow and gradual return of the sun in the new, as will the single garlic clove, until it comes into its fullness as one of the garden’s richest gifts of both food and medicine. We will harvest it with care and gratitude, savor its deliciousness, utilize its healing properties, understand its value in the plant world and preserve enough to perpetuate its abundance through many seasons of dark and light to come.
In a world that operates in linear time, where we leave each numbered year behind in the belief we are moving forward, the garden will always bring us back to the truth of our cyclical nature, and the perpetual promise that the light will return. In the meantime–we wait. Amen.