Friday, April 6, 2012

Make way

The kids have been clearing the beds by their classroom like mad to make way for all the new starts.  Pulling up old plants with gusto, barely remembering to save a few for seeds, mostly just pulling pulling pulling—uprooting toppling fava bean plants everywhere to make way for MORE KALE!  (Plus a few zucchini, but really, those just get out of control with not enough people on campus in the summer to prevent them from becoming not-so-tasty behemoth vegetables.)  The kale will grow fast in the heat and we’ll be eating it before we leave for summer break.

In the pollinator-friendly perennial bed behind us, the tiny plants these exact same kids planted last year in their little handmade gopher baskets are naturalizing, spreading out tall and wide and tossing masses of blossoms toward the bees.  Their mosaic tile border bricks, carefully molded in milk cartons by thoughtful second graders, are now taken for granted, overgrown as they are by the sprawling flowers.  The kids don’t look back, don’t think about how they dug in the manure, loosened the packed ground.  Do not notice how their months of work last year have turned this bare dirt patch into a lush habitat.

Now they are simply bent on uprooting.  It’s so easy, and strangely satisfying to see how on this side of the path, so little effort is required to turn a dense vegetable garden into a naked one.  “Make way for the new!” they declare, fistful after fistful, no regret or remorse troubling their brows.  They are so ready to leave behind the things they are done with.  Me, not so much.  I cling to their childishness, begging for just a few more tastes of the sweetness of their lingering innocence, hoping some grace we planted there can survive.  As they clearcut, I “supervise” by staying nearby, coaxing weeds out from the understory of the pollinator bed.

To me, the two sides of this path reveal the two aspects of their changing nine-year-old natures.  On one side I can see the maturing of what has been planted so far in various selves: the mastery of piano books, the ability to get lost in full-fledged novels, the sophistication of real humor, the moves upward in levels of ballet, tae kwon do, baseball, carpentry.  And on the other, their stubborn retention of their ability to uproot one thing and try on something else completely new. 

Even as they hone their chosen skills, they keep their identities unfixed; they still have so many possible selves to try on, take back off, and decide to keep or toss to Goodwill.  Whereas I’m hopeless at clearing beds, getting stuck in the nostalgia of the beautiful fava plants, thinking “If we just wait, these will bear such delicious beans.”  So, I’ll stay here in my perennial bed, nurturing the flowering plants, while these kids have more important work to do, growing.  And the yummy kale chips next month will be thanks to them.

But this week: Spring Rolls!

Buy: brown rice spring roll wrappers

For the dipping sauce, mix to taste the following:
Garlic, pressed after the kids complain that chopping is silly and make you go find the press
Ginger, minced
Mint leaves, chopped, whatever kind the kids want from the garden

Grate (after the kids complain that chopping is silly and make you go find the grater—apparently this was a lesson if using the right tool for the job, garden helper):

Beet greens
Rainbow chard

Mix the veggies with hoisin sauce and wrap in wrappers according to instructions.  Serve with sauce.  Voila!