All photos by Angela Johnson Photography, see more here.
When I was a little girl, I followed my dad. He had so much to offer me because I would have soaked up anything he had to say. He is my hero and friend. I didn’t realize at the time how fortunate I was that he wanted me to soak up all that was good about the world and God. I took for granted that at my impressionable age, I could have been an observer of less beautiful things. I’m so grateful for my dad.
In the summer, my dad was prepared for the sun. He didn’t wear short and t-shirts. He wore long pants and long sleeves, sun block and a straw hat. We have fair skin in our family and the sun is not kind to it. He would sit on the step in our garage and change his everyday shoes to his gardening shoes. He tied his laces in a double bow knot. Those laces were not coming undone. His gloves were thick and leather and had a thin layer of garden soil on them except not in the creases.
He would till the garden soil until the texture was as smooth as butter. It gave way like moon sand when you stepped on it. He told me a lot of secrets about fertilizer and preparing the soil. It was a religious ritual. In a way it reminds me now of how he took care of his young family. Just as the gardener he prepared the soil for the plants, he spent a lot of time on the foundational building blocks we would need to form our characters to help us survive in the world.
There were two sections to the garden: the tomatoes, and everything else. The tomatoes were given the primo spot. They were along the border of the garden and each tomato “bed” was built up like a volcano with the tomato plant bursting out of the top. It made hand watering those babies a cinch and prevented the garden from needing weeding. His beefsteak tomatoes were worth their weight in gold. They were as scrumptious as a ripe watermelon. I have never found their equal in all of Washington state.
When I was too young to help, I would swing on the swing set and watch his garden unfold as he went up and down the rows repeatedly every summer morning. At times it looked like nothing was happening and then all of a sudden, I looked out one early summer morning and the entire garden was filled with ripe vegetables! We could take our potato baskets and go through and pick the tomatoes and peppers.
When you think of the plants in the garden, they do not need very much except the important things: sunlight, water, and plant food. But what they need, they need it consistently, every day. It can seem menial and repetitive to grow a garden. It’s dirty and hot out there in the summer sun. There’s bugs and sometimes pesky animals that try to take what you have grown. The garden is only as good as the gardener’s consistency.
There are many parallels to be drawn from gardening, and I’ll let you come up with those on your own. For me, I will never forget the wonderful memory of my dad handing my sister and I the watering can and having us share the job of watering the tomatoes each summer morning. I can still see the two of us sharing giggles in the sunlight while walking up and down the garden feeling the sunlight and the mood sand squish underneath our feet.
Thank you for reading When in Tri-Cities, written by Alicia Walters. My friend Lisa shared this poem from Sally DeFord entitled My Father’s Love for Me. It expresses some of the feelings I have. I have always felt very fortunate that it was easy for me to understand that we are children of God and have a loving Father in Heaven because my own father has always been a good man and a good example of that kind of love to me. My dad has told me a number of times, “We do not all have a good father, but all of us have a perfect Father in Heaven.” I know that is true. Read the poem here.