Gardening mysteries unraveling in March winds

My left thumb has been itchy lately. I’ve been yanking up scratchy thistle, and I got a bee sting there a couple days ago. Clearly (or dirtily) the left is the green thumb for gardening, following the rhyming logic that my right is for writing. After translating resources with clear instructions for sustainable agriculture with tropical crops like coffee and cacao, I walk into the wild unknown of my own subtropical kitchen garden.

Exploring gardening in Texas, during my first growing season here, is mostly a joyous experience of marveling at nature’s mysteries.

Just like in Manizales, seasons are thrown with gusto to the wind. It can feel like spring at dawn, summer all day long, and fall right before dusk…during a November winter.

Faithful to the start of the adage on March storms, tornado winds this week shredded my milk-jug-encased tomatoes straight down the middle of the stem, yet didn’t even tussle four-foot-tall arugula. The garlic in the middle of still-straight cilantro simply folded over because it’s time to ripen, tornado or not.

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Flowering arugula smells sweet like jasmine, as the leaves get ever more peanut-buttery potent. It’s an exhilaratingly sensorial confusion to nibble and sniff at the same time. Coffee flowers similarly remind me of jasmine, but peanut butter was the one American treat I always missed in coffee-growing countries. Arugula strangely straddles that rift in cultural cuisines.

This particular plant came out of a mystery pack of jumbled seeds from a garage sale, was the only one to bolt from two beds, and chose to do so right on the edge of the patio.

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Clover seeded last summer luckily flowered for St. Patrick’s Day and started to attract pollinating bees, but I got a bee sting all the way downtown at a Keep Denton Beautiful (beauty-full of flowering Redbuds) event. I hung up a birdhouse only for a wasp to make its nest.

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There’s no rhyme or reason to when roses appear, whether tended or ignored. Mint comes back with a vengeance if mowed over, but dies when gingerly transplanted. Tropical ginger couldn’t hack the dry Texas heat, but the coffee hasn’t given up.

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We were charged with babysitting someone’s special organic jalapeño seedlings potted in black gold soil compared to our backyard’s clay bricks, and each one died. Just regular seeds out of fruits from the Mexican market gave us 99% germination on bell peppers and habaneros that overwintered wonderfully. In Colombia we danced salsa; in Texas we grow salsa!

IMG_7454The greatest mystery lately has been what’s sprouting from the unfinished compost I spread over the beds when spring planting time arrived months earlier than expected. The compost from last fall’s garden held the remains of a couple of successfully sweet cantaloupes, several smashed pumpkins from the neighbors that go overboard for Halloween, a boatload of unripe watermelon from an early winter snap, and umpteen vine-borer-infested butternut squash.

Today I moved a mound of leaf bags and squashed underneath I found seedlings with seeds attached: they’re watermelon. But I firmly believe that some others are undefeated squash.

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As Masanobu Fukuoka expressed in The One-Straw Revolution, seemingly random growth is not wrong; it’s entirely natural.

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The HUMAN Face of Translation

Within the first 35 seconds of the trailer for HUMAN by Yann Arthus-Bertrand I was hooked. National Geographic meets Michael Moore with an Amelie meets Lords of the Ring soundtrack? Yes, yes.

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It was so much more.

Spinning coffee table book shots of places on this planet we didn’t know existed. Mesmerized by the beauty of our earth that we treat so poorly.

Staring into the eyes—black, brown, albino, blind—of strangers as they bare their souls. Captivated by their stories that touch each of us on some level.

“HUMAN” asked: What makes us human? Why do we struggle against injustice, corruption, war, abuse, ignorance, poverty in our lives on this earth?

*spoiler alert*

The purpose of life is to create meaning, to make an impact, to touch others, to love.

Translators brought meaning to these sentiments.

We could all cry along with the speakers, thanks first to the tears of the translators as they worked through those choked-up words.

As I sunk into the depths of the worry lines crisscrossing the faces of the mistreated and suffering narrators, I traced the same creases—of concentration, of compassion—on the face of the interpreter standing in the shadows next to the camera.

Words of perseverance, tranquility, and love lit a sparkle in their eyes that reflected back onto our own joys.

We were interwoven in this beautiful tangled spiderweb of human lives through the invisible, isolated translator.

Translation made this film possible.

It is a modern film, released in the age of computer assisted translations and internet giants like Google Translate.

But it is HUMAN. Only another human can faithfully express those feelings that are sometimes so vast, so complex, so incomprehensible, that they’re beyond words. Yet there they are, in black and white subtitles.

Machine translations are speedy but flawed. Human translators are painstakingly deliberate in their search for the precise nuance.

Swept away by a churning rage against corrupt politicians, greedy corporations, violence and the military, my eyes were clouded with a film of tears through most of the film. Yet my editor’s eye remained sharp as ever.

To be human is also to err.

There were some fumbles even in different accents of English, like saying “hiding” instead of “hitting” in a domestic violence account.

The only Spanish to English translation error I can’t get over is on minute 43 of the 3rd volume. A humble peasant is saying he works his small plot of land for food.

 “Tengo una finquita que me da comida.”

“I have a small farm that gives me food” is translated into “my wife gives me food”. Huh?

That mistranslation brought clarity to my mission in life, what gives me purpose in my short time on this planet:

Accurate translations: to be the bridge for communications between Spanish and English and avoid misunderstandings.

Organic agriculture: to derive our food directly from the land, no petrochemicals, scant processing, minimal transportation.

Loving family: to love the wife (and/or husband) for giving food, to love the earth from which it came, to share this love and harvest with family, friends, neighbors.

What was your takeaway from the movie?