By: Barbara Stachowski
[…On Growing Green Beans was featured on Detroit Today, a public radio show on WDET.]
Gardens can teach us many wonderful things. How do I know? My grandfather taught me so!
I grew up in a wonderfully extended Polish Catholic family in the Detroit suburb of Warren. My father recently reflected how, as a little boy in the 1940’s, he and his family would travel by streetcar and bus from their Detroit home on Davison and Charest to tend my grandparents’ garden on Ryan Road.
I recall, as a little girl, following my grandfather into his barn and being captivated by a large bushel basket of tiny purple objects. My grandfather told me they were green bean seeds. What was a seed? I had eaten my share of green beans and not any of them had looked like these “seeds”. How could a bean come out of that? He replied with his usual, “Ahhhh…!” which translates into “You shall see!”
The adventure began as I followed behind him tilling little burrows into which we placed the seeds, curious as to how we could “watch the seeds grow” after covering them with dirt. Day after day and row after row I followed as we watered and weeded the seeds along their journey to “bean-hood”. And one day it happened! Little green plants began poking their heads out of the ground! The bean upheld its part of the bargain and grew into itself. How could it be otherwise?!
That autumn, my grandfather and I picked the last green beans turned yellow with the season. We coaxed them open and there, inside, was a small child’s handful of little purple seeds. GREEN BEAN SEEDS to be sure! The lesson had come full-circle. I knew by looking at the seeds in my hand that the promise of next year was closer to being realized, just as the summer with my grandfather had been dependent on the summer before. I had become part of the cycle. My sense of time, purpose, and contribution grew exponentially that summer.
I eventually “grew” to be the oldest of seven children. As a gardener, I learned that when the corn got “high” enough I could hide from my six younger brothers and sisters. And before the corn grew, I could find refuge in the branches of the apple trees. When I became a mom, I knew I needed to love and nurture my children: they innately knew how to grow into themselves.
Many things have changed over the years. Detroit is now sprouting gardens and the suburbs are sprouting…well, more suburbs. As Detroit continues its multigenerational journey to rebuild itself from the ground up, the greening of Detroit has rooted us firmly in the promise of a new Detroit. This rebirth will be nurtured by a new generation learning new lessons about themselves, how they relate to the earth, and how Elders and Youngers are all vital to this growth.
Gardens can teach us many wonderful things. How do I know? My grandfather showed me so!