The Last Flower

“As for the winter, when the freezing rains
confine the farmer, he may employ himself
in preparations for serener seasons.”
- Virgil’s First Georgic by Robert Fitzgerald

Every year I play like I’m a backyard farmer and plant my gardens.  Every year I complain that despite my efforts nothing happens the way I think it should.  And every year I learn valuable lessons not just about agriculture but life.

Intuitively I know gardening enhances our quality of life in numerous ways: providing fresh food, exercise and health benefits, and opportunities for life-long learning. A garden experience fosters ecological literacy and stewardship skills - enhancing an awareness of the link between plants and cycles of life.  

This is the spirit of Georgics which I relentlessly try (many times without avail) to embrace year after year.  Man’s struggle against the hostile natural world that can be overcome through hard work.  Taking the time alone, turning off the myriad of electronic devices, and listening to what nature has to say to us.  

The term "Georgics" suggests a connection to the Greek word (georgein) meaning “to farm" and comes from the second major work of the Latin poet Virgil.  Written to be poetic instruction for the proper care of one’s land, it speaks directly of the foundationalism of the earth and specifically the act of farming. This literary work describes the cycles of crops, the seasons, the weather — the birth, death and rebirth that mark the natural world. He provides us with a complex, realistic, and painful reminder of the reality of the human condition.

So, going back to my observations and gardens - what lesson have I learned?

When I look at some things, I do not always look at what they are but what they correlate to or sometimes what they may symbolize.  It is amazing - while getting my hands dirty - the analogy that is hidden in the simple cycle of a plant’s life.  I say these things as a parable of where we are and what may be to come.
Every year, in the first signs of spring a new cycle begins. The plant life cycle begins with a seed. With water, the right temperature and the right location, that seed grows. The seed will sprout and produce a tiny, immature plant called a seedling. Roots then push down into the ground to get water and minerals.  The stem reaches for the sun, and leaves begin to unfold. A bud appears. The plants then produce flower and the pollinated flower turns into food or seeds. The moment the flower produces a fruit that fruit begins to decay.  For trees the leaves begin to die and fall, for fruit the seeds are inside and they ripen until the day they drop. Flowers begin to fade, and even grass stops its growth for a season or more.

Just like the poet Virgil this shows the cycles of crops, the seasons, and the weather.  Most of all, it illuminates the birth, death, and - for some - the rebirth that mark the natural world.  Sadly it is not only a science lesson I see every year in my garden but also like the ancient Greek verse- a prophetic and painful reminder of the reality of the human condition. 

We learned the plant life cycle in grade school but when you pause and look at this cycle as a comparison to a much larger picture, you can see a nation that has lived the seasons and is now on the verge of decay.    

Every nation and culture begins with a new seed. It is provided the right elements and opportunity and it grows.  But every people are faced with the moment when they must confront their time for the leaves to fall or flowers to fades on the prosperity of future generations or cultures.  

I am writing on the brink of the first frost.  I have harvested the last of the good fruit from my gardens.  I have prepared them and myself for a hard season to come, and I look toward the new life that will come next year.  

I am writing on the brink of the first frost.  Our nation faces economic, civic, and geo-political crises that have the potential to shake the very core of our society.  The current system is in decay and we – as a nation – are facing our withering vines.  We have drifted far from the nation of people driven by intellect, sacrifice, and public virtue that characterized this country at the time of its founding.  We no longer understand – or even concern ourselves with – what it means to be a self-governing leader.  As individuals, we have lost our sense of deep obligation to our marriages, our families, our communities, and even to ourselves.

The one other thing that I have learned from my little time in my gardens is that I can contribute. Nurturing, and caring for plants and animals that then fulfill our physical and nutritional needs, helps completes the circle of life. I learned that I and you can help to care for and prepare the next culture. 

I cannot seem to alter or change the cycle of life but I can influence its success.  I am writing on the brink of the first frost.  I am writing this not as an agriculture or history lesson but rather a clarion call for the next culture.  It is my hope we listen together to lessons from life and man’s struggle against the hostile natural world.  Together, we may see the cycles and progression of cultures that we may not only understand where we are but prepare for what is to come.

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