Today I will plant my garden. I'm a horticulturalist-come-lately; for the past two years I've gardened in pots on apartment decks, but today I will plant my first-ever garden in the actual ground. I'll rototill, I'll rake in extra "organic matter," (featuring bat guano, apparently the queen of manures. Who knew?) I'll carefully select the hardiest-looking prospects at the garden store. Optimistically, I might even put big tomato cages over tiny tomato plants, hoping that they'll see that as a sign of encouragement rather than a sign of oppressive expectations. I already worry about squirrels and their savagely herbivorous ilk, who I suspect are already evilly plotting to nosh tender young produce.We bless people and relationships at their outset--we baptize children barely dry from birth, we celebrate marriages and ordinations even though everyone knows that those blessed haven't really done anything in those new roles yet, and, heck, don't even really know what those roles will ask of them in time. We pray our hopes into them.But as far as I know, we only bless agriculture when it produces--we celebrate first-fruits, not planting. And while I will certainly rejoice when the first tomatoes and peppers (salsa!!) and cucumbers and such come to the table, I worry most about them now, when they're young and tender and especially vulnerable, like babies and newlyweds and the newly launched in any endeavor. So how shall I mark the time of the planting? (From another thread, I know better than to sing "On Eagle's Wings," even though, let's face it, an eagle or two would put the fear of God into those squirrels.) Is there a blessing of the sowing, when every hope is still possible, and every danger seems magnified?
Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).