Oh! The joy, the exhilaration, the touch of anxiety and the proud satisfaction, watching a complete stranger buy my plants! I want to hover over the potted seedlings, I want to touch their leaves and tell them goodbye, I want to ramble on to customers about their marvelous qualities– they are dwarf sunflowers! They will be pollen-less! They will have multiple branches! I want to describe the ferocity of the storm I drove through to get the potting soil months ago, I want to describe how vividly green the baby plants looked even in their teeniest state… I want to recommend the sunniest spot and only the very best soil for my plants. “Be good, plantlets!” I want to call out, as the customers walk away with prepubescent sunflowers cupped in their hands. “Live well!”
I think of them now– where are they? On a windowsill? On a porch? Already tucked into the ground? Are they getting enough moisture? Enough air? Enough sun?
Again and again, I am struck by the dynamism of a farmer’s job. I feel concern and love and commitment to all of my plants– hundreds and hundreds. A seedling’s death bruises me a little. When a plant does well, I beam like a parent at their child’s talent show. On days away from the farm, I wonder about the calendula– it had two blooms yesterday, did more flowers open themselves today? I feel the pangs of guilt for planting the poor marigolds too early, as their leaves show signs of stress, and I feel the murmurings of anger at the daylilies that threaten my yarrow plants. I feel tender love for my basil plants as I bend toward them: their scent is fragrant, even when they stand a few inches tall.
Today, I will plant gomphrena seedlings, perhaps some Mexican marigolds, and some more sunflowers if I’m feeling ambitious. As I delve into the soil and make a home for each seedling, I will feel the tug of loss: once they are in the ground, I can only do so much to protect them. They will feel heat, hard rain, wind… so I will handle them gently this one last time, before placing them down and letting them grow.