Jenna Caplette migrated from California to Montana in the early 1970s, first living on the Crow Indian reservation, then moving to Bozeman where she owned a downtown retail anchor for eighteen years. These days she owns Bozeman BodyTalk & Energetic Healthcare, hosts a monthly movie night, teaches and writes about many topics. -
The season’s first strawberries felt miraculous, tucked under leaves, plump, glowing & red. Sweet. A miracle that took a lot of effort. But that work was mostly two months before harvest — the fertilizer, the digging, thinning & replanting.
That I have peas ready to pick and zuchinni blooming, more miracles, miracles springing from early planting, grabbing the opportunity posed by April’s welcoming weather.
So much of life is like this, things that seem like miracles in fact are birthed from focused effort, making it the priority to do the right thing at the right time, though so often the timing isn’t really so clear. What if there is a hard freeze that kills the zuchinni seedlings in early June? Plant now? Plant later?
Part of my process in April was to dig out compost from a pile started 35 years ago. When we moved in to our home, we planned to grow our own food. Mother Earth News was big. I knew I should compost and never learned the best how-to. We just filled the pile, layer after layer after layer: spring weeds; fall leaves; compostibles from our meals.
As I dug into the pile, I remembered the handyman who built the compost bin from wood posts and wire fencing; the long struggle to keep my daughter from throwing plastic liners from the house’s compost pail right in to the bin; and all the things I started with with her father that have outlasted our marriage — in the case of the compost pile, by a good twenty years. He is present in that pile, added to it, and when he visits now we feed him with food nourished by it.
I am grateful that I am still fit enough to dig out the bin, for the eager raspberries bushes that surround it.
In April, I added bucketfuls of Caplette Family Compost to the soil where I would soon plant tomatoes, plant lettuce, chard, spinach, kale. As I did, I considered how cliches have basis in truth. The compost of memory is rich and dark, fecund, laced with bits and pieces of things like the meat bones and raspberry canes that are hard to break down, like still-active, sometimes raw memory. I consider where my life has gone, what has been, the faith in the future inherent in planting and tending a garden.
At the bottom of the pile, I find the little concrete barbeque pit that we built and used just a couple times, before burying it. I knock down the posts the handyman planted, cut the wire fencing for later use.
There’s a new compost bin now, black plastic, purchased from the City of Bozeman. Circular, not square, with a lid on the top to keep things hot, and two doors that slide up at the bottom so I can dig out what is there. I wonder what will come to mind when I do that, what memories will surface.
Tonight when we make strawberry ice-cream, we will forget what it took to bring all the ingredients together, what it has taken to nourish the friendship with the friend who will come share the rich and creamy treat. We’ll forget and just enjoy the sweetness of it all.