Our little garden has produced plenty of cucumbers this year, though they’re drawing to an end now. We’ve been eating lots of them just like this:
salt, freshly ground pepper, dill; olive oil & red wine vinegar, with & without tomatoes
Because a truck crashed through our yard a few weeks ago, there have been plenty of work ‘guys’ (as my kids refer to them) in and around the garden recently. Most recently, a crew of landscapers came to plant new hedges in place of the ones that were uprooted in the accident. And while they were there, I caught sight of them eating some of my cucumbers.
Now, what you need to understand is that I watched these cucumbers grow from lovingly selected heirloom seeds, referring to the plants all the while as my “seed babies.” After realizing that no people had been hurt in the crash, I was greatly relieved to see that my photosynthesizing ‘children’ were fine, too. So finding that my cucumbers were being ‘stolen’ by the landscapers made me scowl at first.
cucumbers and string beans, vining together. I'm scowling because I can't reach.
But of course, I already have more cucumbers than we can eat fresh. I’m putting away the extras for another season, and, as I said, I’ve been given plenty more fresh cucumbers absolutely free. Truth be told, I’m even getting a little tired of fresh cucumbers. But there it was–a reflexive selfishness.
And then I remembered two things:
1. The men working in my yard–immigrants all of them–live on very little. From reliable sources, I know that many of them typically live on white rolls, bananas, and Gatorade. For many of America’s working poor–them included–fresh vegetables (let alone organic heirloom vegetables) are a luxury. A cool cucumber, eaten in the shade of the vine on a hot day when you’re working hard in the dirt–that must have been a really refreshing treat.
2. The Book of Ruth. (What?!) Yes, Ruth. Ruth, the ancestress of David and ultimately of Jesus, was a Moabite–a foreigner in Israel who met and exceeded all standards of kindness and generosity. And Boaz, her benefactor, did the same–though “law” only required him to let her take from the edges of the field, he instructed his field hands to leave out plenty of good grain for her to take. Both gave more than they *had* to. The result? Blessing, love, fulfillment; a respite from famine and exile.
3. (Ok, I lied, 3 things)–that God makes all things grow. Yeah, I fertilized, planted, mulched, weeded, watered, and fretted and prayed over my plants, but beyond all of this, there is a mystery that’s way beyond me. And it just doesn’t feel right to hold that too tightly.
Can I love my neighbor and begrudge him a cucumber? Who’s the impoverished one then? Me. So I do this with some of my cucumbers–
and give some away, and leave some on the vines for the work crew. Because I’m a “good person”? No. Because I want the joy that comes from holding the mystery lightly, and giving freely from what’s been given to me. Because THAT fills me with joy.
Which makes the cucumbers–and pickles–taste even better.