Peter and I were waiting for his tutor Jeannette to arrive on a Sunday afternoon. We thought we had 15 minutes, so went into the garden. I had noticed some fluffy white flowers nodding in the sunshine. The Ay cai seeds must be ripe for harvesting. So Peter and I grabbed a paper bag and trekked out to the backyard to have some fun shaking the seeds loose into the bag. Little did I know the adventure in store for us.
We started out picking the white fluffy flowers and shaking them vigorously in the paper bag, a very fun activity that Peter took to right away. Then we just had to pull up the long stems denuded of their fluffy heads. We lugged the heavy garden waste cans, lifted the lids, pulled up the plants, shook the soil off, harvested as many leaves as were still good to eat in a basket, and plunged the despoiled plants into the green recycle cans.
To the left of the Ay cai, were two scraggly cucumber plants heroically producing more cucumbers after a stellar season, on hardly any more than a few remaining yellowed leaves. We snipped off a few for our basket, and saved the yellowed cukes for seed.
To the right of the big patch of Ay cai, was a patch of heirloom string beans. Might there be anything to harvest? Success! We found a handful of young purple beans- I held the stems and Peter gave a big pull. We added them to our basket.
Inspired by our find, we remembered the string bean plants in our front yard planter. Pretty scraggly- definitely time to pull them. So off we went dragging our giant green trash container together to the front. We got into a rhythm. Pull, shake, and dump. Pull, shake, and dump. But what’s this? Peter discovered a number of wrinkled, yellowed string beans plump with their contents. Fascinated, he dissected them open. Then came the magic. A wide grin crept across his face. Aha! He had an idea. Peter eagerly ran to the freshly cleared planting box. Shovel, drop, pat. Tadah! What we had practiced so many hundreds of times before, Peter humoring me, became his own at last. Shovel, drop, pat, over and over till Peter had planted the beans in his hand, then shovel, drop, pat as he completed two rows with more beans he discovered and extracted along the way.
It was a magical afternoon. Jeannette never did show up- we discovered a message on the answering machine later that something had come up. So our 15 minutes had turned into 3 hours of spontaneous, productive “free time,” what had always been problematic for Peter in the past. Instead of restlessly insisting on watching the same Winnie the Pooh video over and over, compulsively tearing paper, or biting his lip when left to choose for himself, Peter had engaged that frontal lobe to joyfully carry out and act upon his own beautiful upper level thoughts. We planted a garden, something new from the old, for a new beginning.