Unexpected Blessings and Accidental Squash

By: Sandy Churchill

Summer is a paradise time of year for gardeners, landscapers and aficionados of all things green. My family falls into the third category: we appreciate lush lawns and flowers and mulch but the proverbial green thumb is not a natural gift. Case in point: we have mint growing around the perimeter of our pandemic vegetable garden. I don’t remember planting mint though my husband thinks we may have taken the plunge as an anti-pest remedy in past years. We have a few jaunty bursts of strawberries tucked into the garden corners and I forgot these are a perennial. So many had been devoured by our spirited sparrows, cardinals and chickadees in the past that I had given up and surrendered the hope of strawberry jam to the birds literally.

There was the year we yielded “accidental squash” which was the coolest surprise because we got a few plump butternut squash proudly thriving in our haphazard garden but we never actually planted butternut squash! Our family loves it but honestly didn’t think we had the gift to bring this harvest favorite into being. Turns out all those goopy fistfuls of butternut seeds that steadily packed our compost bucket were the gift that keeps on giving when we fertilized the garden with our kitchen compost soil. Yippee! Surprise squash! This was like an autumn gift from above, because clearly, we don’t know what we’re doing when it comes to gardening.

This year, I planted seeds like a mad-woman mid-April when sheltering in place was making me antsy to look to the future and get things done. My teenage son was a good sport, helping me plant flower bulbs, seed mats, and the endless tasks of helping my husband spread loam and mulch and mow the lawn. Even with the best of non-chemical efforts, our lawn is a spritely blend of shady and sunny grasses, interwoven with fairy clumps of clover and a smattering of cheerful dandelions.

Amid the pandemic, many households have been tackling to-do lists brimming with both indoor and outdoor projects, and that is a silver lining for sure. Gardeners echo sentiments of life lessons such as patience, perseverance and consistency when planting, watering, weeding, and such. But amid the powerlessness we sometimes have felt during Coronavirus quarantine there has been a strange peaceful quality surrounding an element of surrender. We can’t go anywhere—at all in the early days, and still limited now—so we stay put. We can’t get together with family and friends in the same way—so we Zoom-call or scrabble together a socially-distant meet-up with lawn chairs in a parking lot or front yard. Masks are a nearly constant companion, and we’ve washed our hands until the skin peels.

I pose this for consideration. What are the unexpected blessings that have stemmed from this unprecedented time? For some it is the glory of working in pajamas, avoiding stressful commutes, and saving on gasoline. For others it is the reprieve from the daily hustle and bustle as the earth seems to whisper “slow down”. Some of us are digging into productivity and catching up on so many items that have overpacked the to-do lists while others are embracing some rest and relaxation with nature time, Netflix TV binges, and sleep, sleep, sleep. Through it all, many families are noticing this shifting of gears—albeit out of our control—to spend more time with our partners and children, pay attention, listen, talk, and share. This connection has been a lovely unexpected blessing despite the stress, anxiety, worldly worries and financial concerns. So, as the sun sets on another balmy June afternoon, I ask you to reflect on the unexpected blessings of the COVID-19 quarantine. Underneath the panic, sickness, confinement and isolation, were there blessings that descended like dew on the garden? What was your accidental squash?

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