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Chester County Press

Editorial: The hands of her small children, in the soil

01/20/2021 01:26PM ● By Richard Gaw

Last week, a Kennett Square mother of three small children looked into the tiny camera on her personal computer, and began delivering a short Facebook post that arrived in the form of a message of hope.

She began, however, by peering down the rabbit hole of our national conversation – the one that has fractured families and friendships, narrowed our nation’s beliefs into cold and barren fortresses and seen our aspirations for sovereignty cascade into oligarchy. 

There was weight in her voice as she spoke, a whispering resignation of the tonnage she had witnessed over the past four years, but she was not alone.

We have heard the trembling cacophony of fear from those who feel as if the American Dream has been stolen out from under them.

We have felt the terror of knowing that the rip chord of our highest ideals of America has failed to release in mid air, sending our beliefs into a downward trajectory of racism, bigotry and hatred.

We have seen the persistent values of decency and character buckle under the determination of our nation’s ugliest citizens, ignited by the blowtorch of social media, invented facts and a blind insouciance toward rational behavior.  

Her eyes carried the exhaustion of what it took to explain what was happening on the television screen on Jan. 6, when the raging hellfire of domestic terrorists ripped open our nation’s most sacred symbol of democracy, and committed acts of such heinous offense that they repulsed even the most hardened parts of our souls.

“I hate what’s happening,” she said. “I hate the brokenness. I hate the way that people have been divided against each other, whether in political systems or with other people.”

Then, about midway through her post, she changed course.

For the past few years, she said, about one half of the backyard of the home she shares with her children and husband in Kennett Square has been devoted to the cultivation of a vegetable garden. With the assistance of her family, she has grown a wide variety of produce, and for those who regularly visit her page, they know that the garden has become a sanctuary of growth and learning for her and her children. Throughout the growing season, it is common to see posted photographs of her children’s small hands in the soil, and the delight of tiny and happy faces peering from the stems and the plumage.

“To plant a garden is to hope for the future,” she said, borrowing a quote attributed to the actress Audrey Hepburn. “What I want to leave you with today is hope, that our hope does not rest here, and that I can hope for other people, and that I can hope for a better future.”

She said that she has been preparing what is generally known as a winter garden, an indoor period of design and preparation for any gardener, that for her involves the ordering of tomato, lettuce, cabbage and cucumber seeds – all of which will find their way into the soil beginning in the spring.

So will sweet potatoes, which she is starting this winter from a series of sprouts that are grown from a mature potato. The cultivation of a sweet potato involves the most delicate of tasks, one that begins when the potato is cut in half and placed in a jar of water. Once the sprouts become visible, they are twisted off of the potato and placed in a shallow bowl, and are ready to plant when they are about one inch long.

Once they arrive in her garden, she will water the plants thoroughly during the summer. All told, from the time they are first grown from a glass of water to the moment they are harvested, a sweet potato can take as many as four months to be pulled from the earth.

Gardens, like hope, are a thing of slow anticipation, underground and invisible, acts of our unrelenting faith.