Sitting on the windowsill just above the kitchen sink, there is a small wooden heart. It is the size of my palm, cut out of 1/4-inch plywood. I love you Mom. Nate. The magic marker lettering is beginning to fade after 10+ years.
In the top drawer of my dresser, I have a small stuffed felt panda bear with black button eyes. And a rose made from red satin ribbon. And a bracelet, delicately crafted from fine wire. And numerous hand-made cards.
Last week, I received a note in the mail from a lady I met in March at a presbytery-wide women's conference. Three short, hand-written sentences. I think I've read through that sweet note a dozen times since opening it.
Emily asked me once why I keep all these "silly" things - all the childish tokens of affection and the out-dated letters. I keep them because they are treasures...treasures of encouragement, whose value and effect increase (rather than decrease) over time.
Three years ago, I decided to plant strawberry beds at the end of our garden. The boys hauled cross-ties from the shop and built me raised boxes. They helped me mix soil, sand, and peat moss. They built screen covers over the boxes to keep the naughty chickens at bay. I nestled my young strawberry plants into their new home, eagerly looking forward to the harvest of fresh berries we could expect in another year.
For a year, I watered and weeded and mulched. The next spring, we enjoyed a tiny sample of the good bounty to come. Then summer came, and drought. I watered my young plants. And watered. And watered. And watered. They barely pulled through.
The next spring, we still had only a bowlful of berries to show for all that work. But, the kids and I persevered. We weeded and mulched and watered. Then summer...and another year of drought. So we watered. And watered. And watered.
And then, I just gave up.
Last fall, my beautiful berry boxes were nothing more than glorified Weed Display Cases. The few berry plants that had survived were crowded by Bermuda grass and nettles. I had to admit the truth - I did not have the perseverance and dedication to grow strawberries. We didn't even mulch the few stragglers for winter. Instead, I determined that, come spring, I would Round-Up all the boxes and plant something that required less labor and attention. Sigh. I so want to be a real gardener...it's difficult to admit my own inadequacies and concede defeat!
Then just over a week ago, my friend Donna - Donna the Garden Goddess, Donna the Master Gardener - did a very unexpected thing. She brought me seven beautiful strawberry plants from her own lush garden.
Okay, I've just admitted to killing over two dozen vigorous strawberry plants purchased at no little expense from the local Co-op a couple of years back. What on earth am I supposed to do with these lovely new strawberries?! I feel rather like an axe murderer handling a shiny new blade...saints preserve us!
Well, Saturday, I spent all afternoon digging Bermuda grass and ash saplings out of the boxes at the end of the garden. Attended by several very curious chickens, I turned and sifted the soil, combing out the roots of the nasty grass and weeds. By nightfall, the beds looked gorgeous...like they were positively longing for the dark green leaves of a few vigorous strawberries.
And you know what? I truly believe these strawberries are going to make it. Will I be faithful to water and weed them through the long months of summer? To mulch them, and bed them down for winter? Yes, I think I will. Why? Because these strawberries are Donna's. And working in them will be like a faint whisper of spending time with my far-away friend.
Maybe a year from now, I'll be sitting here typing a post about the delicious fresh strawberries we enjoyed from our garden. It won't be because Donna told me, "You can do this, Camille. You just need to hang in there." It won't be because she motivated me with her expert example. It will be because, with seven young plants, she said, "I love you, friend."
And that's what I'll be hearing every time I'm out working in the berry boxes.
3 weeks ago