Susie's Garden

Susie MiddletonToday was my second visit to my friend Susie Middleton’s garden at the Native Earth Teaching Farm in Martha’s Vineyard. Surely you have heard of city folks paying to go weed and dig and haul water on farms. Well, I don’t pay, but would willingly. I go early before the sun is too hot and weed a row or two of vegetables -romaine, arugula, purple bok choy. Susie joins me and we talk about the garden, our families and friends, our writing. ..whatever comes up. It is an easy way to be with someone and many hands make light work.  I chuckle as I am reminded of another Susie (Puliafico), a childhood friend, with whom I spent long hours digging in the dirt and making mud pies and cookies. I guess I am really getting back to my “roots”.

This morning’s visit is especially thrilling because Basil and Snowflake, goat kidstwo of the farm’s resident pygmy goats have just given birth. I climb into the holding pen for a closer view and some pictures. The kids are of course adorable and I start thinking again about raising a few goats of my own- a fantasy that I’ve held since my early twenties.

Susie works really hard. Not only is this her first big garden, she blogs regularly, and is working on new book proposals and testing recipes. There are book signings for her first book, Fast, Fresh and Green which recently made the Amazon top 100 books. To get all that done, you would expect Susie’s demeanor to be more like a hard charging super executive. She definitely is organized and focused on details. But Susie has been cultivating a different way of being since her move her to Martha’s Vineyard.  It seems her overriding motivation is fueled by gratitude and appreciation.  “I just get so much satisfaction from being in the garden. It is like a meditation. What I accomplish is not geared toward external rewards. During much of my life I looked for the approval of others in my work. Work was a way to get ahead, a competitive activity. I see there is a different and more satisfying way to work now.”

And it is not that she is not being recognized for her work. Her book has been reviewed favorably by many including Tom Philpott at Grist and NPR to name a few. Yet one cannot help but feel the reverence that she embodies this morning as she picks the first pea pod and cradles the fresh green pearls in her hand as she offers me a taste. That reverence seems to grow the more time she spends in her garden. Susie has come to genuinely appreciate the fruits of her labor and the ways she is supported in her work, now and through the years - from her time as an editor at Fine Cooking Magazine to today's long hours at her desk, in front of the stove and on her knees atop a fertile square of earth.

Says Susie,  “I know what it feels like to be grateful. In my post midlife-crisis world, not only do I get to be present for a lot of cool stuff, but I also get to know that terrific feeling of gratitude—of knowing you’re the recipient of good karma that you’re not necessarily wholly responsible for.”  Amen. Amen.


Click here to read Susie’s recent blogs  or here to order her book Susie's Garden


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