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The Gardening Womb This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

I think I know why early man moved from hunter-gatherer to farmer. A certain mystique exists in plowing up the ancient womb of the earth, fertilizing it, and planting seeds.

As I consider this, I am holding the rich, hot cow manure I just bought at the local Harvey's grocery. I am sowing the manure between carrots and white half runners (green beans).

Manure – a concoction of decayed and digested plant matter and the last link in the cycles of carbon, nitrogen, and other chemicals – is strange; like compost it embodies a sort of cannibalism among plants and, in a way, animals.

When a person dies, we bury them, they decay and the plants absorb the nutrients – effectively, eating them. Along comes a cow or some other herbivore which eats that vegetation, digests it, and eventually produces the once very smelly but now weirdly non-malodorous stuff I'm holding. I am feeding the plants their own and possibly my ancestors, who will eventually feed me … and thus I am a cannibal.

As I spread the possible remnants of long gone and forgotten family members, I realize the manure is not just hot from the warmth of the day; it's also rich with nutrients; my hand can almost feel the fertility, taste this link of life to the egg – the plant I have grown in the womb of the great mother. I feel a blast of self-consciousness and a pang of irony: man, impregnator of women, doing the same to mother earth. However, unlike in human pregnancy, I, a man, participate completely in the gestation of my “children.” I must provide the nutrients. But in a bizarre, ironic twist, I eat these offspring, and those I spare, or possibly their ancestors, will eventually eat me.

Maybe that is the reason humans, or rather lonely old men, garden. It is the closest we, as men, will ever come to re-creating the peace of the womb and bearing children. The things we do in the garden, women's bodies do inherently.

Perhaps man chooses to farm as an ­extension of his natural need to procreate. In the end, regardless of why we grow plants – and regardless of their end use as food, as my children are, or as decorations, like so many topiaries and ­orchids – gardening is the completion of the “circle of life.” Isn't it a beautiful irony? F

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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