Time for Salsa Reform


I desperately want to be a successful gardener. It is a bit embarrassing to admit the level of euphoria green growing things emit on my life. I am a freaky tree hugger who cannot but help touching leaves, smelling flowers, sitting in amazement at new blooms. There is something so idyllic about walking out your back door, picking a ripe tomato, aromatic cilantro, spicy jalapenos,  and a fresh onion that YOU grew from seed, walking back into your house to make some mad homemade salsa and enjoy all the accolades of success, health, sustainability, and accomplishment.

But it’s July 26th. I have no bounty. Like none. I have some great green healthy pepper, kale, zucchini, and tomato plants. But no fruit. No produce. And I can’t figure out why I am not getting the results I desire.

Now I admit when I say I desperately want to be a successful gardener I can’t say that I take advantage of all the resources, data, and research available to me. If I was really that passionate, I would seek out some master gardener classes, right? Learn from the experts instead of trying to figure things out just from my perspective or experiences? I do seek out and try some research each year. I might watch the sun pattern for a while or see what other gardeners’ best practices are in my area.

I try some new techniques but if they don’t have pretty immediate results, I tend to ignore them or just see if they will work without my input. I try to plan to water at least every day. But I lose interest, or it feels like I should water the plants that are thriving. Is there really a reason to try to save the plants that are withering on the vine? Aren’t they just a lost cause? Sure, they may die, but I can just plant new ones another time. I invest in some new pots, tools, or soil each year. Admittedly these purchases are only made if they seem easy or quick or take the responsibility off of me.

When the rabbits and deer make a salad buffet of what I have been able to eke out of the dirt I tend to just rant and rave and post how frustrating those freeloaders are to my efforts rather than trying to deter them from my work or find a different source of sustenance for them outside of my green goodness.

I can say it’s the plants’ fault themselves. Perhaps they should have told me they should not have been planted in the shade but rather needed full sun. Perhaps if I try to cultivate them in the wrong soil and environment it is actually their fault for not picking up their roots and moving to a place, they would be more fruitful.

However, around this time every summer I tend to throw up my hands and say the stars are not in alignment, it will never happen this cycle better to just try again next year. I get really grumpy at my garden and all of sudden the happy feelings of green growing things are gone. In the meantime, I don’t reap the psychological, social, and physical benefits of a bountiful harvest. My family doesn’t get to roll their eyes and say cute things like “Mom, how many zucchini recipes can you make,”. My neighbors don’t get to experience incredible salsa. I get no sense of altruistic accomplishment.

But in the end the only one I really have to blame is me. I haven’t invested the real time, money, brainpower, and resources to really see the change I want in my own backyard.

I wonder if we could apply this same reasoning, this same process, this same logic to any societal issue related to equity. Education, employment, public safety, housing, transportation, voter turnout, and for goodness sake, health. True, COVID has brought to light so many many tremendous broken parts of how humanity has been limping along for decades. But for as many tragedies that COVID has placed upon us especially in the areas of broken trust and relationships, it has given us the much-needed insight into this reality.

We have been trying to make progress on a two-wheeled tricycle driven by three or more clowns traveling down a steep cliff of rabble and broken glass.

I hear so many people say they can’t wait for things to go back the way they were prior to a pandemic. A pandemic in which everyone is trying desperately to not make eye contact with. I hear people say they can’t wait to get back to normal. I don’t want that old normal. I don’t want that old standard of apathy, finger-pointing, and blame. I want us to consider things like Medicare Expansion, Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, Universal Preschool, and real efforts to make mental health and substance use disorder treatment available to all. I mean really consider them. And not just completely dismiss them because we don’t like the side that suggested them.

Let’s not pretend to go forward in this next season of life. Let’s not try to pretend to hold our garden together with chicken wire, duct tape, and the occasional wisp of water. Let’s dig deep into good soil, fertilize a firm foundation, make sound judgments backed by real experience and research. Let’s create some calm in the chaos.

Let’s make some really really good proverbial salsa together.

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