It’s that time of year again.
Time to thin the carrots and the beets.
I hate doing it. It’s so hard to decide who goes! And yes, I gave the tiny seedlings a personal pronoun because by this point, I’ve grown so attached to them that they feel sort of people-ish to me.
I planted them months ago, watered them, and spent mental energy hoping they’d germinate, sprout, grow, and thrive despite bugs, temperature fluctuations, and my own inability to figure out if they’ve been watered or over-watered.
I know if I’m brave and determined about it, they will one day look like this, but by the time they’re big enough to cull, I’ve invested too much time to be carefree about ripping some of them out.
Every year, this process reminds me of one of my favorite scenes in Kimberly Newton Fusco’s Tending to Grace. In it, the pragmatic Agatha thins her carrots without a second thought, but the rejected and abandoned Cornelia has a strong reaction: “I look at her throwaways and I see myself.”
I’m not the only one who loves this scene. I’ve taught Tending to Grace a number of times to high school students and even in a college-level ESL class. This scene elicits strong reactions from readers who know what it feels like to be left behind or tossed away.
Kim posted some of my students’ written responses to this scene and others in the novel in a blog post. There are many places in the story where readers feel a connection to Cornelia and her struggle for love and acceptance.
People need to connect, to make eye contact, to be called by name, to be seen, heard, understood, accepted, and cherished. Tending to Grace explores those basic human needs and the ways we can fulfill them for one another.
As I head out to do the dirty but necessary deed, I’ll think of the people who made me feel included, loved, and cherished, and I will consider ways that I can care for and be more careful of others.
Beet and carrot seedlings (with much prevaricating on my part!) can be discarded. A person cannot.